Happily Ever After

(Ils se Marierent et Eurent Beaucoup d'Enfants)

It's really interesting watching the films of French director Yvan Attal. When he acts in front of the camera (The Interpreter, Bon Voyage), he comes off as an everyman in unusual situations. Attal is handsome, yet still appears like the regular person on the street. As a result, people often feel they can relate to him. Happily Ever After is his second outing as writer and director. The first was My Wife is An Actress, and with these two films, one gets a sense that he is putting on film some of his own experiences. Attal is married to actress Charlotte Gainsbourg (21 Grams, My Wife is an Actress), and starred as Attal's character's wife in both of his films, which deal with living with a famous wife, and marriage.

Happily Ever After is a movie about green grass. Specifically the greener grass on the other side of the fence. Vincent (Attal) and Gabrielle (Gainsbourg) are settled in their marriage. They have their own place and a young son, but there's no real spark to their relationship. When he looks at his friends, he sees himself in the middle of a long spectrum of possibilities. Georges (Alain Chabat, The Car Keys, The Taste of Others) and Nathalie (Emmanuelle Seigner, Body to Body, The Ninth Gate) have a volatile relationship based on arguing. He is pretty laid back, but Nathalie is strongly feminist, and relishes challenging nearly every concept that Georges has. On the other hand, Fred (Alain Cohen, Baby Blues, The First Time) lives the wonderful life of a bachelor. He has no long term commitment, and instead spends his time with amazingly beautiful women (sometimes more than one at a time).

When looking at both extremes, Vincent clearly sees Fred's life as more attractive. The scary thing is that he sees himself drifting slowly towards becoming more like Georges. It clearly bothers him, and begins to drive him into the arms of a mistress (Angie David). Unbeknownst to him, Gabrielle knows, but does nothing hoping that Vincent will come to his senses. Vincent doesn't realize that while he longs for a life like Fred's, Fred longs for a calm, stable situation where he will always go home to somebody. The type of situation that Vincent and Gabrielle, and Georges and Nathalie.

Overall, the insights and gentle comedy of Happily Ever After is not quite up to par as My Wife is an Actress. While Attal has the foundation of his ideas present, he doesn't really go anywhere with him. He explores them on a superficial level, then moves on without going into any depth. The biggest thing one gets out of the marriage between Vincent and Gabrielle is that they really like to have food fights and chase each other around the house. This gives their marriage a manic feel - periods of intense happiness followed by lots of arguing and silence. Instead of talking about his feelings, Vincent bottles it up inside him and goes elsewhere. Attal and Gainsbourg are still wonderful to watch on screen, but otherwise, Happily Ever After is a slight sophomore slump for Attal.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Not Rated but contains language, sensuality, and some minor nudity, most likely an R.

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