Dir. Pierre Salvadori. 2003. R. 110mins. Daniel Auteuil, Jose Garcia, Maryline Canto,
This featherweight romantic comedy stars the personable Auteuil (who has lately supplanted Gerard Depardieu as Monsieur Ubiquite of French film) as Antoine, the hyper-conscientious headwaiter at a posh Parisian restaurant. Crossing a park on the way to a dinner date, Antoine meets Louis (Garcia), a bankrupt and heartbroken mope about to hang himself. Antoine saves the stranger's life, then takes it upon himself to revive the would-be suicide's will to live. Antoine starts by getting Louis a jobas a sommelier at the restaurant, then tracks down the woman who broke Louis's heart (Kiberlain) in the hope of orchestrating a reconciliation. Most of the film's ho-hum humor is predicated on Antoine's determination to keep his good deeds secret from his perpetually exasperated girlfriend (Canto), which traps him in an escalating series of white lies and compromising impostures that are more squirmy than funny. Other, equally tepid running jokes play on Louis's incorrigible self-centeredness and his incompetence as a wine expert.
Director and co-writer Salvadori delivers a good-looking, well-acted picture whose most interesting aspect is its evocation of tony dining atmospheres. Anyone interested in a much funnier treatment of a very similar premise should make the effort to track down Edouard Molinaro's 1973 classic black comedy, L'Emmerdeur, starring Lino Ventura and Jacques Brel (disastrously remade in Hollywood as Buddy, Buddy, with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon).—Cliff Doerksen