Up for Love review: chemistry without a spark

3rd August 2016

Jean Dujardin’s post-Oscar career hasn’t been as fruitful as we might have hoped for him. He may have worked with Martin Scorsese since then, but this French rom-com is hardly a good showcase for the talents he demonstrated with his awards-laden performance in The Artist.
In Up for Love (a remake of the Argentine-Brazilian film Corazón de León), Diane (Virginie Efira) receives a call from Alexandre (Dujardin), a stranger who happened to pick up her phone after she misplaced it. Alexandre sounds charming and witty over the phone, so the two arrange to meet. But to Diane’s surprise, it turns out that Alexandre is very short. Four-foot-five, to be precise. Hilarity ensues.

Except it doesn’t, because instead of taking the route you might expect with such a premise, such as broad slapstick or perhaps mischievous bad taste, co-writer and director Laurent Tirard keeps the tone frustratingly straight-faced. There are some jokes, but they’re not particularly funny, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything in it actually worthy of laughter. There’s a recurring gag about Alexandre getting knocked over by a big dog, which inevitably gets very old, very quickly.

There are also a couple of subplots to the main romance, the first of which involves Diane’s angry ex-husband and colleague Bruno (they work in the same law firm), as they try to put aside their differences and work together on a divorce case. The second involves Alexandre’s adult son, with whom he is very close, as he tries to develop his own app. These stories serve little purpose to the main plot, other than perhaps to emphasise Alexandre’s charm and good-hearted nature.
Despite the film’s general lack of inspiration, Efira and Dujardin have enough chemistry and charm as the two leads to keep you just about interested in what’s going on. If nothing else, they make you believe in their characters enough that the emotions in their final scenes feel just about earnt. Cédric Kahn offers some much-needed conflict to the workaday proceedings as Bruno, adequately balancing his brooding aggression with lighter moments.

As a director, Tirard shows moments of promise, such as the beautiful scene in which Diane and Alexandre go skydiving. The opening, in which Diane first receives the aforementioned phone call after losing her mobile, is also filmed impressively in one long take. It’s a technical feat that feels kind of pointless, given that no such gimmick is repeated elsewhere, but fans of tracking shots will enjoy it nonetheless.

The premise of Up for Love meant that it was never going to be extraordinary, but the filmmakers could at least have had a lot more fun with it. Instead, the result is mildly boring and mostly underwhelming. If you want something unchallenging and light, you could do worse. But I honestly didn’t laugh once. I barely even cracked a smile.
Words by Logan Jones

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