Starting with convenience and froth proves an omen of things to come in this contrived rom-com that can't coast by on star charm.
In the opening scene of Up for Love (Un homme à la hauteur), two things occur — and both only ever happen in the filmic realm. Firstly, lawyer Diane Duchêne (Virginie Efira, Elle) answers a call from a stranger bearing news of the mobile phone she didn’t know she’d lost, strikes up a friendly conversation, and gets along with him swimmingly enough to arrange to meet up the next day. And, in the middle of their chat, the bath Diane had forgotten she’d left running spills over, sending a wash of bubbles escaping from the bathroom.
Convenience, froth: both offer omens of things to come. The rom-com that follows not only charts the aftermath of Diane and architect Alexandre (Jean Dujardin, The Connection) crossing paths in person, but the fact that the good samaritan with the alluring voice is only 4’5” tall. Despite the latter’s many charms, the former has trouble contemplating dating someone of such a smaller size, not to mention worrying about what her aggressive ex-husband (Cédric Kahn, The Anarchists) and snobby mother (Manoëlle Gaillard, French TV’s Mes amis, mes amours, mes emmerdes) will think. Accordingly, as the two share a beverage, banter about his height, and then go sky-diving — all much to her surprise — sparks fly, but it’s a tentative bond that’s formed, as well as the basis for an all-together up-and-down film.
As written and directed by Laurent Tirard (Nicholas on Holiday) with his regular co-scribe Grégoire Vigneron, and remaking 2014 Argentine-Brazilian film Corazón de León, an effort heavy on contrivance and cliche but striving to be light, breezy and loaded with sweetness proves the end result. Up for Love is a feature that happily depicts the CGI-shrunken Dujardin in big chairs whenever it can, while also throwing in a shot of him looking larger than life as he crawls through a model of an opera house. Wearing the same clothes as children, getting repeatedly bowled over by a dog, barely being able to see over the door of a car, struggling to reach something on a tall shelf: they’re all also included.
Tirard’s attempts to stress the point don’t just prove tiresome, but troubling, laden as the movie is with easy sight gags at the expense of someone shorter in stature. That the constant reminders sit uneasily with Up for Love’s overall message of acceptance — stopping short of actually saying that good things come in small packages, but offering the same sentiment and wrapped up in a grand gesture typical of fluffy romantic comedies — can’t be shaken, though the film’s fondness for its protagonists, as emphasised by its honeyed imagery and saccharine score, can’t be overlooked either.
It’s within that tonal tempest that The Artist’s Academy Award winner Dujardin and the similarly charming Efira are asked to etch out an earnest but complicated relationship, the one aspect of the feature that consistently hits the mark. Neither is served well by the material, but manage to make their characters’ respective woes and worries feel much more textured and thoughtful than the rest of the film earns. Indeed, watching their chemistry will leave you wishing that the duo had been tasked with an affectionate love story that didn’t play with size. Alas, that’s not the movie they’re in — and, alas, there’s little about Up for Love that reaches any heights.
Rating: 2 ½ stars out of 5
Up for Love (Un homme à la hauteur)
Director: Laurent Tirard
France, 2016, 98 mins
Release date: 1 December 2016