Chocolate-Filled Love Story With Marshmallow on Top
Enjoyment of Jean-Pierre Améris’s confection, “Romantics Anonymous” (Les Émotifs Anonymes”) may depend on your taste in chocolate. If you prefer it dark and bittersweet, this delicately flavored but sugary treat could cloy. For everyone else, the tale of two pathologically shy chocolate makers who are meant for each other but are too afraid to connect is a mug of warm cocoa with marshmallow topping that produces a comfy feel-good glow.
More About This Movie
One way to look at “Romantics Anonymous” is as a Gallic musical-comedy without music, although it includes two songs — one each for its anxiety-ridden would-be lovers who lack the courage to seal the deal. The aptly named Angélique (Isabelle Carré), a saucer-eyed beauty with a halo of curls, is a gifted chocolatier who is so self-effacing that the merest compliment makes her faint. To cope with her fear, she sings “I Have Confidence” (from “The Sound of Music”) to herself and attends 12-step meetings for people with social-anxiety disorder.
Her male counterpart, Jean-René (the Belgian comic actor Benoît Poelvoorde), is the middle-aged owner of the Chocolate Mill, a failing enterprise whose products are deemed old-fashioned by those in the know. Jean-René is afraid to answer his own telephone, listens to self-help tapes at night and sees a therapist who pressures him to take action. He and Angélique first meet when he hires her as a sales representative after the death of her former employer, a legend known as the Hermit, for whom she worked as his secret chocolate maker.
On his first date with Angélique, Jean-René, who sweats profusely when under stress, brings a suitcase filled with shirts that he hides in the men’s room of the restaurant. When one shirt is drenched (within minutes), he excuses himself to change into another, and then another. Eventually his panic gets the better of him, and he flees out the bathroom window.
In this ongoing game of advance and retreat in which neither blames the other for running away, there are two nonsinging choruses: the members of Angélique’s 12-step group and Jean-René’s loyal staff at the Chocolate Mill.
“Romantics Anonymous” might vaporize if the director and the actors didn’t have such easy command over the tone of this singularly Gallic fairy tale. If you added a dozen songs and brought it to the stage it would be completely at home.
Opens on Friday in Manhattan.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Améris; written by Mr. Améris and Philippe Blasband; director of photography, Gérard Simon; edited by Philippe Bourgueil; music by Pierre Adenot; set design by Sylvie Olivé; costumes by Nathalie du Roscoat; produced by Nathalie Gastaldo and Philippe Godeau; released by Tribeca Film. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes. This film is not rated.
WITH: Benoît Poelvoorde (Jean-René), Isabelle Carré (Angélique), Lorella Cravotta (Magda), Lise Lamétrie (Suzanne), Swann Arlaud (Antoine) and Pierre Niney (Ludo).