Written by on April 6th, 2012

As witnessed in Delicacy, Audrey Tautou is adorable (insufferable?) even while she’s grieving. Still, as also witnessed in Delicacy, she deserves more than critics’ and moviedom’s neverending categorization of her as a man-entrancing pixie — say, as an actress, maybe? In directors David Foenkinos and Stephane Foenkinos’ film, adapted by David from his novel, Tautou plays Nathalie, a woman who’s crazy in love with Francois (Pio Marmai). They regularly re-create the day they met at a coffeehouse and eventually they marry, getting along spookily well with their in-laws and talking about kids, though they decide to put that off. It seems like they have all the time in the world.

But they don’t. Francois dies unexpectedly, leaving a huge void in Nathalie’s life that she at first fills with solitude and then with work. And Tautou is terrific portraying the grieving widow,
doleful despite her constant, perky ponytail and occasionally angry about everyone’s attempt to help a process that can’t be helped. It’s a subtle performance that could have been chewed, and it cries for its performer to be taken more seriously.

If only the rest of Delicacy were so deserving. Counterintuitively, the film’s perfect-love first half is more interesting than its after-the-tragedy second, which is dull, illogical, and offensive to all men who don’t look like models. For three years, Nathalie engages in nothing but her job at a even though dudes apparently fall in her wake, particularly her boss (Bruno Todeschini), who straightforwardly hits on her. She’s at first flustered but is eventually just as direct in return, saying that although she may start dating again one day, she’s quite sure it won’t be him because she doesn’t find him attractive. It’s harsh, but you admire Nathalie for her honesty.

And then Delicacy goes off the rails. One day, a colleague of the work group of which she is head, Markus (Francois Damiens), enters her office to take about a problem with a case. Her resolution? To get up and kiss him, never saying a word. He leaves with a spring in his step and an unwipeable smile on his face, attracting the attention of every gorgeous woman who passes him by, even though he’s balding and kinda odd-looking. Markus stays in his reverie until he confronts Nathalie about it. She doesn’t remember kissing him, she says. Let’s forget about it and get back to work, she insists. Of course, Markus can’t, and he sorta-pursues her, himself giving her a kiss out of nowhere one day and asking her out to dinner. And suddenly they’re a couple.

Except when they’re not — each pulls away at least once in the relationship for various reasons. Much is made of the fact that Markus isn’t handsome, particularly in one scene in which Nathalie’s friend invites him to her party and then reacts to him as if he’s a troll: When she opens the door, she doesn’t even think that he may be Nathalie’s date but assume it’s a neighbor complaining about the noise. And then she almost angrily rebukes Nathalie in front of her guests, not-so-disguisedly telling her she could do better. It’s absurd.

However. You never for a minute buy the relationship; why on Earth Nathalie falls for Markus is anybody’s guess. (Much is made of the fact that he’s funny, but he ain’t that funny.) Tautou can beam and giggle all she wants, but even an Oscar-winning actress couldn’t make this alleged love spark. And thus Delicacy’s long slog begins — a dull musing on a relationship that has its ups and downs, but only because the script says so. (There’s a single entertaining moment throughout all this, and that’s when Markus puts on cologne when Nathalie IMs him.) When Markus tries to back off at one point, he says, “I’m going to fall in love…it’s ridiculous!” and runs away. Yes, it is ridiculous, and so is most of this movie.

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