(We’ll Never Have Paris, Simon Helberg and Jocelyn Town, 2014)
We’ll Never Have Paris thinks it is a corrective to the overly-sentimental, chocolate box story-telling of most romantic comedies. It thinks by depicting a “perfect couple” break up, sleep around, then fumble back to find another its doing something revolutionary. Unfortunately in trying to revitalise the genre it foregoes its most crucial ingredients: charm, likeable characters, wit, and romance. And a fucking point.
Quinn Berman (writer and co-director Simon Helberg: gormless, mildly hateful) is sufficiently scared by an eye infection to decide its time to settle down with his long-term love, the academic Devon (Melanie Lynskey, doe-eyed but with nothing to do). Before he can propose, however, his leggy leggy leggy leggy blonde colleague Kelsey (Maggie Grace, lost in an oh-so-broad-stroked role) tells him she’s into him. Flattered and sexually intrigued, he breaks off with Devon and gives Kelsey a spin, before realising he prefers his old personality-devoid lover to his new personality-devoid one, seemingly because Kelsey has appalling personal hygiene and Devon really likes to bathe (she’s forever emerging from ablutions, rosy-cheeked and damp-haired. It’s her one character trope). Trouble is, Devon has sensibly absconded to Paris and is making flirty doe-eyes at a lanky violinist (Ebon Moss-Bachrach, dreamy in a greasy douchebag sort of a way). With no regard to the woman he claims to loves’ feelings, or sensitivity to her need for space, Quinn follows her and sets about interrupting her every waking moment, trying to petulantly whine his way back into her good graces. She lets him follow her around because she doesn’t really have any thoughts about anything, despite claiming to like her new beau because he talks about music and politics and junk.
These people run the gamut from awful and self-absorbed to boring and unpleasant, hesitating only briefly to squeeze out mainly unsuccessful bon mots (in the interest of full disclosure, one or two gags actually land). The film that surrounds them is breezy enough, with bright, attractive cinematography and a tourist’s view of Paris. Most admirable is the soundtrack, which is not a series of cheesy prescriptive rom-com standards but rather a jazz-infused delight. These small compensations are moot, however, as the protagonist Quinn is a self regarding feckless arsehole who blunders and does selfish things until Devon finally relents and agrees to reunite with him, presumably to shut him up. They’re destined to a life of pointless mediocrity in celluloid land now. Which is nice for them. It is a shame this film had to chart their journey there.