Review: Delicacy

April 6, 2012 by  


Delicacy — as in treating others delicately, not whipping up delicacies in the kitchen. Writer/co-director David Foenkinos understands that some things are too sweet for their own good, of which the adorable Audrey Tautou preparing desserts would undoubtedly qualify, testing whether it is possible for a movie to experience diabetic shock.

Sans cake or pie, Delicacy is still pretty sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. The story comes right out of the romantic-comedy playbook — Nathalie (Tautou) loses the love of her life to a car accident, but by the end of the movie finds another. Even though we’ve seen this story many times before, however, it has never been told in quite this way.

For starters, the structure is unique enough that it keeps the pervading thought that the movie is utterly conventional–one of the most painful parts of watching the usual rom-com–at bay. The opening scene features a meet-cute between Nathalie and François (Pio Marmai), the soon-to-be dead husband. There is no question in one’s mind that the film’s love-story will be theirs — so when Foenkinos turns the tables 15 minutes in, it’s exhilarating in its unexpectedness. Furthermore, because we are just as stunned by François’ death as Nathalie (albeit in a more trivial way), her stunned flurry of emotions is all the more palpable.

Further, Nathalie’s second love interest is not what you would expect — Markus (François Damiens) is a scruffy Swedish co-worker who can barely hold a conversation. The implication, of course, is that after she has been destroyed by personal tragedy, Nathalie is able to appreciate Markus’ meekness, his delicacy. Only in a movie could the two actually be a match, but the way Foenkinos handles the romance–trips to the theatre and a dingy Chinese restaurant that carry a distinct undercurrent of Scandinavian-brand dark comedy–give Nathalie and Markus a quirky, cinematic chemistry.

Adding to the film’s pleasantness, nobody working on Delicacy seems to have tried too hard. Foenkinos and his co-directing brother, Stéphane, ensure that the emotional moments pack a punch, but otherwise treat the film as a leisurely stroll through Paris — just as it should be. Tautou has this role down by now, and she’s as charming as ever (if understandably not as substantive here as she was in the great Amélie). Rounded out by nicely composed, colorful cinematography and a breezy score, Delicacy is the type of rom-com that more Americans should try — if only they realized that reading subtitles is easier than putting up with Kate Hudson’s manufactured schtick.

3 Buckets

* * *

Delicacy (2012, France). Produced by André Logie, Xavier Rigault, and Marc-Antoine Robert. Directed by David and Stéphane Foenkinos. Written by David Foenkinos, based on his novel. Starring Audrey Tautou, François Damiens, Bruno Todeschini, Mélanie Bernier, Joséphine de Meaux, and Pio Marmaï. Distributed by Cohen Media Group. Rated PG-13, with a running time of 108 minutes.