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HAPPINESS NEVER COMES ALONE

SYNOPSIS:
Sacha Keller (Gad Elmaleh) loves his friends, his piano and partying. At night, he plays in a jazz club and seduces pretty girls. He lives for the moment, looking for pleasure. No alarm clock, no engagement, no taxes. Charlotte Posche (Sophie Marceau) has three kids, two ex-husbands and a thriving professional life. She has no room for a romance. They have nothing in common. They shouldn't be together... yet they're made for each other.

Review by Louise Keller:
Like a good piece of jazz that surprises by its melodies, harmonies and rhythms, this delectable comedy mixes up music, art, kids and love in surprising juxtapositions, delivering a vibrant splash of life. Gad Elmaleh and Sophie Marceau are great together as side-plots evolve involving a Broadway show and three kids. The combo of bright colours, a peppy music score and fast-paced storyline makes James Huth's film uplifting and sweeps us along with its energy. It's funny and surprising, with slapstick comedy woven into the mix, but never detracting from the film's big heart.

It takes an unexpected Paris rain shower, a head-first splatter on the footpath and a further soaking from the spray of a passing car that prompts Sacha Keller (Gad Elmaleh) and Charlotte Posche (Sophie Marceau) to lock eyes. It's an unlikely match: Sacha is a musician whose happy-life formula comprises one-night stands while Charlotte is a well-heeled, well-connected mother of three. Slapstick is not what we expect from the elegant Marceau and her comic timing is superb, her stilettos tripping on her long pink scarf. There's more slapstick to come - also involving water, plumbing and mayhem - this time in the bathroom of her swish apartment, where Sacha's attempts at being handy, provide more fuel for laughs.

Music is a great upper and used to great effect - from Elmaleh's nimble fingers on the keyboard playing Chopin to Etta James' soulful I Want A Sunday Kind of Love and Casablanca's As Time Goes By, that aptly reminds us how a kiss is ... just a kiss. (It just so happens that both Sacha and Charlotte have posters of Casablanca in their bedrooms.) The sophisticated art world that Charlotte inhabits is a far cry from Sacha's, pounding jazz at the club and writing incorporation lemon, vanilla and chocolate into catchy jingles.

Needless to say, the way Sacha discovers Charlotte has children is milked for all it's worth resulting in good humour. The kids are great - especially the youngest, Louis (Timothé Gauron), whose child-like directness hits a nerve. I also like Sacha's Jewish grandmother, who makes wild suggestions over gin rummy. François Berléand is suitably austere as Charlotte's wealthy ex, while Maurice Barthélémy is a hoot as Sacha's gay music producer, whose loud persona matches his dress sense. Realism, caricature and hyper-reality is bundled together in an appealing package.

Elmaleh and Marceau carry the film with their style, charisma and chemistry in this feel-good breezy encounter. And then there is Paris, enticing from every angle - we can ooh and ah at those wonderful views of Sacre Coeur, Place Vendôme and environs.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Above all, HNCA is blessed with a soundtrack showing impeccable taste and (for me) surprise of Gad Elmaleh's excellent piano playing skills. He's also terrific in the role of Sacha, a talented but somewhat tortured composer who expects his happy bachelor life of hedonism to go on for ever. Until that fateful Tuesday when Charlotte (Sophie Marceau) literally falls at his feet - on the pavement, somewhere near Place Vendôme - not a bad spot to fall in love.

The establishing scenes are the best things about the film, as it shows its heart on its sleeve, turning on the magic realism charm, seducing us with its overt romanticism and letting us feast on two characters falling madly in love. There is also madness and farce and too many pratfalls and Sacha's creative partner Laurent (Maurice Barthélémy) who annoys us as well as Sacha.

And then there are the two ex husbands: the one we get most of is Alain Posche, nicknamed Chick Poacher behind his back for obvious reasons, and played by the brilliant François Berléand. He is the sugar daddy to Charlotte's aspirations as an art gallery manager, which might explain why Berléand at 61 seems much too old for Marceau (b. 1966, 14 years younger). Charlotte's second husband, Cesar (Francois Vincentelli, b. 1975) is even younger than Marceau and looks as though he could pass for Alain Posch's son. Unlike the businessman Alain, Cesar is a gym junkie - a weakness Alain tends to exploit .....

The three children all come off very well, and Valerie Crouzet is wonderful in the supporting role of Cecile, Charlotte's friend.

As much as we'd like the film to fire on all 6 of its romantic comedy cylinders, it misfires on a couple - though not on the ones that drive the well directed and photographed and often funny sex scenes. But here again, James Huth just doesn't sense when he's overdoing the pratfalls.

Finally, a special note to acknowledge the inventive and intriguing work on the stage show that Sacha and Laurent are putting together, a musically themed piece with dancers seen in silhouette, forming the shapes of musical instruments. Clearly, these filmmakers are music lovers. That's a good thing.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

HAPPINESS NEVER COMES ALONE (M)
(France, 2012)

Un bonheur n'arrive jamais seul

CAST: Gad Elmaleh, Sophie Marceau, Maurice Barthélémy, François Berléand, Michaël Abiteboul, Julie-Anne Roth, Macha Méril, Litzi Vezsi, Cyril Guei, François Vincentelli, Robert Charlebois, Valérie Crouzet

PRODUCER: Richard Grandpierre,

DIRECTOR: James Huth

SCRIPT: James Huth, Sonja Shillito

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stéphane Le Parc

EDITOR: Joëlle Hache

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 16, 2013







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