When it comes to what the French think is funny, it’s important to remember that they considered Jerry Lewis to be a comic genius.
Jerry Lewis! That’s why it’s best to approach the French romantic comedy “Anaïs in Love” (Magnolia) with great caution.
The running joke in “Anaïs in Love” is that the titular Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) is always running late. Running to appointments to parties to school to family functions, rarely breaking a sweat. She’s late with the rent on her Paris flat, late with her graduate thesis, and late with her period. She’s late when she tells her estranged husband Raoul (Christophe Montenez) that she’s pregnant, but on time when she has her abortion.
Anaïs has more issues than being time-challenged. She has started an affair with publisher Daniel (Denis Podalydès), an older man closer to her parents’ age. Daniel is unfaithful to Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), a well-known writer with whom he has been in a relationship for 12 years.
Meanwhile, Anaïs is coming to terms with the return of her beloved mother’s (Anne Canovas) cancer which has metastasized in her liver. While this isn’t an excuse for her bad behavior, which also includes lying to her academic advisor, it may be a sort of explanation.
However, Anaïs questionable choices reach a fever pitch when she insinuates herself into Emilie’s life. At first, it begins innocently enough when she comes off as a fan of the writer’s work. But soon her actions border on stalking when she shows up at a writer’s symposium in the French countryside where Emilie is being featured. Then, without warning, the women begin a sexual relationship. It comes as a complete surprise as neither character had previously indicated such a proclivity.
In terms of comedy, there are a couple of genuinely funny scenes in “Anaïs in Love.” The one involving the Korean couple who have agreed to sublet Anaïs’ Paris apartment may produce a chuckle for some viewers. Also, the scene in which Anaïs shows up at her brother Balthazar’s (Xavier Guelfi) apartment, shortly after he gave his pet Lemur a Xanax leading to a visit to the vet is darkly funny (the Lemur survives!).
But for the most part, a movie about an inconsiderate young woman, whose mother is dying of liver cancer, and who makes the lives of the others around her unpleasant, is not a laugh riot. In fact, the Oscar-nominated “The Worst Person in the World” did a better job with this kind of annoying lead character. In French with English subtitles.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.