11 November 2011
What happens if you mix Chocolat and Amélie? It’s certain that Romantics Anonymous doesn’t happen. Despite a juicy set-up (two clinically shy people fall in love and hilarity ensues), it falls criminally short of anything good. The worthy efforts of its two leads (Isabelle Carré and Benoît Poelvoorde) do nothing to save this flat film from falling face down in the mud.
Angélique (Carré) finds a job at a small chocolate factory, owned by the moody and mean Jean-René (Poelvoorde), as a sales rep. Unbeknownst to her new employer, she is actually a master chocolatier. From a whimsical flashback sequence we find out that she is some sort of a legend in the highly competitive chocolatier world, but her extreme timidity meant that she never revealed her true identity.
Jean-René, meanwhile, is seeing a therapist, who gives him daily exercises (“Today you’re going to touch a person”, “Today you’re going to ask somebody out to dinner”), which Jean-René tries on his new employee. Before long a budding relationship emerges between these two desperate people.
So far, so good. But, we don’t get to see the regular movie relationship stages: boy meets girl (or girl meets boy), boy falls for the girl (or girl falls for the boy), boy screws it up (or girl screws it up), boy fixes it (or girl fixes it). In Romantics Anonymous girl meets boy, girl falls for the boy. End.
Conforming to plot conventions can work against a film, but if you’re making a genre film (and Romantics Anonymous is definitely one), then you have to alter those conventions - not replace them altogether.