Discussing the pros and cons of a particular romantic comedy is like discussing a hamburger’s uniqueness. It can have innumerable flavours, but it can only be delivered in so many ways – namely, either the couple gets together at the end or they don’t. [Then again, as a man, I may be missing something.] So in order to give the French film Delicacy (La delicatessen) a fair analysis, I feel it most appropriate to see if it meets the basic requirements of the genre (1 star per question).
1) Is the main character likeable?
Put bluntly, if we don’t like the main character, his/her eventual falling in love won’t mean anything to audiences. Low likeability equals low box office. Fortunately, this is not an issue here. Audrey Tautou plays the strong-willed Nathalie, who falls in love, loses that love, immerses herself in her work, and has to decide whether a second relationship is worth the potential pain. The arc has been done before, but what struck me was how vulnerable she presented herself. I’ve watched funeral-procession grieving over loved ones, but the pain of throwing away now-useless belongings? Not so often. Full marks.
2) Do we like the love interest (s)?
It helps to have the audience rooting for the same ending as the main character, so we want to like who he/she is falling for. Francois (Pio Marmai), the first love, displays a great deal of charm, something captured from the first scene and its use of apricot juice. We get a good twenty minutes with the character and thus share Nathalie’s pain when he dies (as stated in the synopsis). However, when she starts to connect with a co-worker named Markus (Francois Damiens), he works on another level, perfectly capturing the perfect mix of humor and awkwardness that makes him very relatable. Love-worthy on both ends, again full marks.
3) Is character development natural?
No matter what genre you are in, the characters need to develop in a way that seems reasonable or it pulls you out of the story and its romance. Sadly, the transition between these two romances did feel a bit forced. As a result, the corresponding shift in atmosphere felt jarring to the point where it sometimes made Nathalie’s actions seem out of character (especially at one point in particular). The two bookending halves were good, but they did not connect well. Only half-credit here.
4) Any conflicts for the characters?
Honestly, this was the weakest part of the film for me. Call me crazy, but widowhood seems like a substantial enough hurdle to overcome when trying to find love again. Instead, they have Nathalie’s boss Charlie (Bruno Todeschini) serve as a Goofus to Markus’ Gallant in “Wooing Women 101”. This works at first, but the more he was utilized – good or evil – the more three-dimensional he should have felt. The opposite occurs. Zero points for misplaced focus.
5) Anything new to say about love?
Treading new ground in rom-coms is difficult. But in Markus’ struggles, we witness a noble respect for Nathalie that often must be emulated in our society laden with divorces and tragedies– to not replace love experienced in the past, but to respect its existence and instead try providing decent love in the future. Surprisingly deep, full marks.
In summation, directors David and Stephan Foenkinos have provided a decent film that is well-intentioned but a bit sloppy in its delivery. Using my male-based checklist, I’d say give it a shot at a matinee showing. It’s flawed, but you could do far worse for a movie date.