French Girl (2024)

French Girl Review\

French Girl

The complexities that surround love cannot be as easy as destroying cities; these are challenges that the movie “French Girl” presents in a light romantic comedy by James A. Woods and Nicolas Wright who are also known for having written “Independence Day: Resurgence”. The duo establishes a playful bond between long time lovers Gordon (Zach Braff) and Sophie (Evelyne Brochu), before putting their relationship at risk with an intrusion of an old girlfriend, Ruby (Vanessa Hudgens), leaving Braff’s killjoy protagonist miserable when he tests Sophie’s patience thus doubting her loyalty towards him. At 48 years old, this actor can be said to be very likeable performer and there should hardly be any worries about French Girl being his last time to star in a film but with this role he is warned against thinking that hapless, puppyish charm fits so well after some time has passed. These factors apply to both ingenue roles and boyish parts.

At the beginning of “French Girl,” Gordon cooks breakfast for his soul mate or at least tries to. Unfortunately, he is terrible in the kitchen. It must have been this intimidation factor that prevented him from successfully brunching: Sophie is an accomplished chef. In fact, she’s at the top of her game enough to move from New York City over to Quebec City where she would serve as executive chef in a luxury hotel.

Brochu portrays the title character as smartly appealing which seems inconsistent with what French Girl suggests. Hudgens plays Ruby, Sophie’s former classmate turned haute celebrity restaurateur who returns into her life. (The singer-actor even belts a song.) The exes come from here and it is Sophie’s hometown too.

It does not take much imagination to guess that Sophie and Ruby have had something before based on their history but they still came out shocked when she accepted the job offer from a new company where Ruby works. Was this why Sophie kept quiet, for fear that her new spouse may not like it? The other theory is that she was just being honest: the poor lad is a nervous wreck. And he does.

Things do not go well with Sophie’s family either. They have always loved Ruby more than Gordon, even after they broke up. Our protagonist tries too hard with Alphonse (Luc Picard), Ginette (Isabelle Vincent) and his siblings Juliette (Charlotte Aubin) and Junior (Antoine Olivier Pilon). Perhaps Gordon might find an easier way of ignoring Mammie’s signs of worsening dementia.

Braff puts in much work to make the absurd pratfalls including taking a pill from his father (William Fichtner) on a plane to Quebec thus collapsing, running away from an angry swan and retrieving the ring he meant to put upon Sophie’s finger once Mammie gets it. Similarly, Hudgens also struggles with the rom-com’s reliance on exaggerated rivalry. This one is as imperious as Gordon is insecure in his profession’s ability. In comparison to better recent food films such as “The Bear,” “The Taste of Things” and even “The Menu,” Ruby’s foodie hauteur tastes overdone here.

Thank God for Sophie’s family and the Quebec backdrop, which also happens to be Canadian made. Even though they function as a plot device — that of being won over — but they also lend believable warmth to various meals, spats and private conversations among them. Picard does well in playing the skeptical but loving dad of Sophie; you can easily understand his impatience with Gordon for example who has been under financial pressures as a small scale farmer. This gets worse when Junior tells him he doesn’t want to take up the farm; he intends to become a police officer.

There are moments so short-lived at the beginning of “French Girl” that this film looks like it might turn into something more lovely. A lot of it is because Brochu’s performance as Sophie displays an interesting mix between culinary ambitions, unwavering loyalty (till Gordon pushes too far) and profound love for her family. During one such break away from romance, Sophie goes with the women in her family to cook in the farmhouse kitchen –no tiresome Gordon or domineering Ruby on screen. Instead, it is Canadians who are featured prominently and their easy irritated fondness becomes tangible.

Nevertheless, that respite will not last long within this traditional home space. After all romantic comedies must have their fair share of deities too. Thus, Gordon becomes more desperate while Ruby appears increasingly double-faced until at last neither seems quite right for Sophie yet again proving that there was never any competition here. For every ingenious rom-com or just one that satisfies you on some level there are dozens of ineptly formulaic ones “French Girl” falls into another category all together.

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