An Alternative Guide to Great Movies: Love Is In The Air (2013)
PUBLISHED: 14:24 11 October 2018
Films with re-watch value, movies with a unique quality, will become the classics of the future. Arts editor Andrew Clarke presents a series of idiosyncratic suggestions for movies that may entertain if you are in the mood for something different.
Love Is In The Air: dir: Alexandre Castagnetti; starring: Ludivine Sagnier, Nicolas Bedos, Jonathan Cohen, Arnaud Ducret, Brigitte Catillon, Jackie Berroyer, Clémentine Célarié, Michel Vuillermoz Cert: 15 (2013)
The rom-com is a much maligned film genre – maligned because it is very hard to get right. Done badly, it comes across as cliched and predictable – a tiresome wish fulfillment fantasy with no basis in reality at all.
But, done properly, it is a charming, character-driven slice of life designed to enchant and entertain. True the rom-com, by definition is somewhat formulaic, boy stumbles across girl, they initially don’t like one another but they keep finding themselves in each other’s orbit, they eventually fall in love, they split through some misunderstanding before being brought together at the end for the requisite Happy Ever After denouement. Rom-coms are modern day fairytales and as such are very powerful storytelling devices – when done properly.
The mistress of the genre is Nora Ephron, a former tough, New York journalist, she was about as far as you could get from a fluffy-minded, template-dependent movie making. This was a woman who relished dialogue, created strong-minded characters who didn’t mince their words. In films like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless In Seattle and Julie and Julia, Ephron created the gold standard for modern rom-coms.
She knew the rules when it came to romantic comedies but, like a superb jazz musician, was able to play round their strictures and bend the framework to her needs. Since her death, rom-coms would have seemed to become increasingly uninspired and formulaic but every now and then a little gem of a movie will come along and remind you of that Ephron magic.
Love Is In The Air, a sharp French comedy, is one such film. Starring the luminous Ludivine Sagnier it centres on the nightmare scenario of finding yourself being seated next to your ex on a long haul flight across the Atlantic.
As you would expect it is difficult to ignore somebody for the six hours you are in the air, particularly when the wounds are still clearly there and especially when you’re still furious with each other. Each accuses the other of having broken their heart.
Even though sculptor Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) is flying to Paris to marry her fiancé she slowly becomes aware that lawyer Antoine (Nicolas Bedos) is really the love of her life. How does she know this? Because if he wasn’t, then she wouldn’t still be so mad with him.
During the flight, the pair are forced to talk to one another and start to hear the other person’s side of the story. As they bicker and spar with one another the other passengers, like us, become intrigued with their story.
This is a real Ephron-style rom-com, told with wit and imagination. There are flashbacks galore (which gives us an echo of When Harry Met Sally) to give us the background on their relationship and allow us the opportunity to see them in saner times.
The dialogue is sharp and very funny and the set-piece scenes are extremely clever. Julie’s way of dealing with a chauvinist in a restaurant is brilliant and the way their romantic assignation is shot on top of the Eiffel Tower is gorgeous. It embraces and then subverts the rom-com tradition of including travelogue sequences when shooting in well known cities.
Castagnetti directs with a light touch. He uses techniques like split screens and montage sequences to give the movie a light, frothy feel but it is Sagnier and Bedos give the film much of its entertaining charm.
Both create likeable and identifiable characters. These are people who you want to spend time with. Even though Sagnier’s Julie is a disorganized scatter-brain and Bedos’ slick lawyer is something of a lothario, the pair create a strong chemistry together and you believe that despite past mistakes they are destined to be together.
While most rom-coms concentrate on the comedy Love Is In The Air works because it is not afraid to inject some genuine emotion and drama into the film and they are able to do that because the characters are so well drawn and well played.
Love Is In The Air is breezy and fun with just the right amount turbulence mid-flight, a perfect reminder of how good rom-coms can be and a challenge to other modern film-makers to embrace wit, character and invention and revive this neglected genre.