In the French film Paris – Manhattan we meet Alice, a Woody Allen obsessed, eternally single woman, whose family are always trying to find a man for her to fall in love with.
The film tried to be a charming romantic comedy but didn't hit the mark for me. I'm sure it wasn't aiming to be anything other than fluff, and while it certainly achieved that, it also had a 'seen this before' feel that made the whole thing seem somewhat redundant. I didn't strongly dislike it because it just seemed to me to have no real substance. So, while there was little to really dislike, there was also nothing to really recommend it either. Although I should state that I find Woody Allen movies to be very hit-and-miss, and so perhaps I just don't like him enough to properly appreciate a film that wouldn't exist without the body of his work.
In terms of plot, it's the story of Alice as she searches for love under the watchful gaze (and constant advice) of her Woody Allen poster and of her family as they orbit around her. However, I found the end to be a pay off with no real build up. There were no real stakes because I didn't feel enough affection for any of the characters to be fully invested in what happened to them. This was largely because they never really departed enough from two-dimensional clichés to feel real. Victor, one love interest, struck me as interesting and while not necessarily very well developed, he came across as more of a three-dimensional character, or maybe just as less of a stereotype. While Vincent, the other man, was hardly more than a caricature – he liked Woody Allen and Cole Porter and fitted Alice's idea of the ideal man because of these two thin attempts at characterisation.
Alice herself was not particularly well fleshed out either, apart from her obsession with Woody Allen movies and her job as a pharmacist we learn very little about who she really is. While there is character growth in the film, I'm not sure that the stimulus for this growth is really shown to us very well. It seems like it's convenient for the story and that the changes, particularly in Alice, are necessary for the plot, but to make me feel that this character would really change in this manner the reasons had to be clearer and better developed. As much as you want something to happen and think that it's the right thing to happen, the reasons why it happens still have to be believable.
The film also introduced numerous plot elements only to deal with them extremely superficially and not really add anything new to an exploration of such issues. Examples of this are the complex relationship between Alice's sister Helene and her husband, and their mother's drinking problem, which possibly stems from her unhappiness at being convinced by her husband to give up work and be a stay-at-home mother. Also, despite introducing these subplots, it is a very short film. While I wouldn't have wished for it to go longer, the length of the film at under an hour and twenty minutes, speaks volumes about its shallow treatment of these elements.
There were some nice moments but they didn't carry the film. The characters and plot weren't enough for me and despite a promising opening the visual elements couldn't lift the film above the mediocre. Although, if nothing else I am inspired to visit and/or revisit some of Woody Allen at his finest, so I can be thankful for that.