Film review: Fly Me to the Moon

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Fly Me to the Moon

Reviewed by Kate Prendergast

Edited by Siobhan Hodge

Film: Fly Me to the Moon
Director: Pascal Chaumeil
Running Time: 104 minutes
Year of Release: 2012
Language: French (English subtitles)

Superstitious Cruelty versus Indomitable Fate: the latest French romantic comedy to lightly slap Australian screens

Isabelle (DIANE KRUGER) is the inheritor of a terrible family curse— all the woman of her family can only find happiness in their second marriage. Thinking (hah! the fool!) she can sneak through a loophole in her destiny, she and her sister hatch a ruthless and cunning plan: Isabelle will seduce some lovelorn oblivious sod, marry him, and then flick him away from her like some horrible frog to which she’s been forced to pucker lips. Only then can she gladsomely run back into the arms of her true man, liberated of the fear that she will suddenly and inexplicably begin to despise him the minute she gives the ritualized ‘yeah, alright then’.

But, of course, things don’t go according to plan. Pierre (DANY BOON), a roughly-hewn Russian travel guide schlub whom Isabelle randomly picks out for her first husband, is not the docile victim she would have him be. Worse, despite her determination to loathe him, Isabelle finds herself not wholly unaffected by Pierre’s lively spirit and gruff charms. With the dramatic winds of destiny swirling about them into thankfully loosening circles of cliché, the pair get thrown into a series of continent-hopping misadventures— of which include an encounter with a crotch-sniffing lion, a Maasai wedding, Russian folk-dancing, and fantastical little mouse-like creatures with eyes the size of saucers.

It is, without doubt, all very ridiculous. Romantic comedy does have that impish prerogative and when it comes to matters of logic and ‘the real’, many French producers are inclined to evince a most bodacious unconcern. There’s hardly a French film nowadays that makes it to Australian screens that isn’t attached to the adjectives of ‘quirky’, ‘experimental’ or ‘charming’. This marketing emphasis and import trend is vaguely irritating in that it reinforces a national stereotype (those stylishly outré French!) and probably filters out a vast gamut of other kinds of French film from our viewers. Still, it assures Australian audiences a few cinematic delights (think Amelie, Mic Macs) and is hardly worth choking on rage over (not in this context, anyway).      

No, the main bone-picking to be done on Fly Me to the Moon is that its drama is propelled by the doings of a selfish, superstitious, manipulative and gaspingly horrible bitch. The only redeeming qualities our ‘beauty’ can lay claim to are that she has very finely sculpted cheekbones, and— in the last hour—she embraces craziness and love (or is it pity?) over dull bourgeois routine. Kruger gives the audience such an eyeful of Isabelle’s ill-concealed lip-curling, remorseless cruelty and chilly sarcasm towards the hapless Pierre that the character comes off very ugly and insufferable indeed.

In fact— and unhappily—Isabelle could be easily viewed as an eccentric variation of the irrational and hypocritical female type; her efforts to control her fate portrayed as clumsy and cruel, and her only power— that of her ‘womanly wiles’ — shown to be grossly mismanaged. It is also interesting that what ultimately persuades Isabelle to leave her first lover on the eve of their wedding is that the 40-something year old guy shows a bit of nervous cold feet towards his potential future of fatherhood. 

Whilst it may be true that pain is always at the constricted, fluttering heart of the romance genre, the agony in this film derives from the sadistic and the pitiable kind. The drama’s unfolding is moreover ‘rationalized’ by nothing more than idiotic superstition— which, in the end, just functions as a most-perfunctory premise. Along with the plot’s wildly swinging motions, this film’s heart could therefore be said to be both congenitally ill-formed, and to suffer from chronic arrhythmia.

Yet heart it still has. Somewhat remarkably, Chaumeil’s wild and restless cheek makes Fly Me to the Moon really very enjoyable at times. In spite of the uneasy scepticism that hovers in the back of one’s mind, bursts of hilarity erupt. There is, guiltily, fun to be had. The pleasure factor is greatly aided by Dany Boon, who makes the most of his character’s terribly comic suffering and more so of his own terrifically expressive face. If you don’t fold over laughing during the dentist chair scene, there may not be a chuckle left in you.

Fly Me to the Moon is screening from October 31st at the Luna Palace’s Cinema Paradiso in Northbridge.