"Apres Vous", the new French comedy, desperately wants to be a farce, but also wants to have some intelligent dramatic moments. Because the film can't decide what it wants to be, it is ultimately a mixed effort. I love it when films try to do different things, to surprise the viewer, but "Apres Vous" doesn't shift between the different styles in a fluid or graceful way.
Auteuil, who is in practically every French film released in the United States, second only to Gerard Depardieu, plays the head waiter of a very busy bistro. He seems to be in a holding pattern, playing out a relationship with his girlfriend, a relationship neither seems to be that excited about. He puts all of his efforts into his job and is very good at it. When he meets Louis, he realizes that he has a new project on his hands. He wants to convince this man that he has a lot to live for by helping him find a job, locating his girlfriend, getting them back together. Auteuil is a great actor and makes the character very believable.
The second member of the trio is Louis, played by Jose Garcia. His character has an earnestness, an intensity, which comes through beautifully. We believe everything about his character because of the actor; his sadness, his happiness, his joy, his feelings of betrayal. Blanche, played by Sandrine Kiberlain, is a bit more monochromatic, but given the tenants of the story, it works. She is a bit glum, never smiles, but the events in her life are all controlled by the men in her life, as they break up with her, manipulate her, fall in love with her.
There are some very funny scenes in "Vous". Antoine gets an interview for Louis to become the new sommelier at his bistro. Louis has no experience, so Antoine, one of the three interviewers, pantomimes the answers behind everyone's back. After Louis gets the job, he coaches his friend and helps him succeed.
There are also some very dramatic scenes. Antoine returns home to find that his girlfriend has surprised him with a homecooked Sunday dinner. He rushes out to a meeting, all in his efforts to help Louis, neglecting her. She doesn't take it well.
"Apres Vous" wants to be funny, yet it wants to be serious as well. The experience is a bit like watching an American remake of a really good French film. When the French film industry make a good film, they usually hit all the right notes; characters are believable, the story is plausible, everything works. When Hollywood gets their hands on it, they generally try to fix what they perceive as being wrong. An A-List actor is cast in a role, so their role is changed, to make it `meatier'. The story is changed to make it `more palatable' to audiences in America. It ultimately becomes a shadow of it's former selve. "Vous" has difficulty deciding what it is. Is it a farce? Is it a drama exploring relationships? It is both. But the two genres are very far apart and the film doesn't flow back and forth smoothly. It almost seems like they wanted to make the film more palatable, providing something for everyone, rather than presenting the story in one definite way. Funny scenes at the bistro are sandwhiched between scenes of Antoine and his girlfriend, or Antoine and Blanche, or Antoine and Louis.
Ultimately, "Vous" would have been a great farce or a great drama, but because it tries to be both, it is merely a pleasant French film to while away a few hours at home, when you rent the DVD.