My Wife is an Actress (Ma Femme est une Actrice)

on September 12, 2001 by Sheri Linden
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   In his feature directorial debut, Yvan Attal focuses on the emotional pitfalls of the movie business, from the point of view of a leading lady's jealous spouse. By turns silly and melancholy, "My Wife Is an Actress" is a frothy valentine to moviemaking and romance that doesn't quite achieve its intended impact, despite the compelling presence of the central trio, who deliver finely modulated and thoroughly believable performances.

   Attal plays Yvan, the sportswriter husband to movie star Charlotte (Charlotte Gainsbourg, his real-life wife). He's increasingly disturbed by the intrusions of fans in restaurants and on the streets of Paris, and when she goes to London to shoot a film with an English big-screen heartthrob (Terence Stamp), Yvan's insecurities reach crisis point. Husband and wife crisscross the channel on the Eurostar in a series of ill-fated visits, while Charlotte finds herself falling for her intense co-star, who pursues her with a practiced combination of passion and sangfroid. In an appealingly offbeat subplot, Yvan's pregnant sister and her husband are embroiled in a debate over whether their son will be circumcised (she's Jewish, he's not). With a light touch, Attal's script offers clever observations on the balancing act of marriage and the intimacy of the filmmaking process, questioning where artificiality ends and genuine emotions take over. But this is hardly the first time such themes have been addressed in a film, and however engaging these characters are, the outcome for them is less than satisfying dramatically, and stubbornly remains beside the point.

   That Attal and Gainsbourg are off-screen companions lends a certain resonance to the proceedings, and fans of the sad-eyed young actress will enjoy seeing her in a departure from the generally dark roles she plays. She's natural and eminently watchable here, while Stamp is spot-on as the charismatic womanizer with an artist's soul and a manipulator's confidence. In a more expansive performance, Attal is an engaging regular guy trying to come to terms with the strange world of his wife's profession. There's a lived-in realism to all the actors' work, and though the film is finally too slight to generate much heat, Attal is an assured writer-director whose ensuing work should be regarded with interest. Starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Yvan Attal, Terence Stamp, Noemie Lvovsky, Laurent Bateau, Ludivine Sagnier, Keith Allen and Lionel Abelanski. Directed and written by Yvan Attal. Produced by Claude Berri. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Romantic comedy-drama. French- and English-language; subtitled. Rated R for language and nudity/sexuality. Running time: 94 min

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