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Jet Lag (August 14/03)

Jet Lag is centered around the premise that the two central characters (played by Jean Reno and Juliette Binoche) are so intriguing that the audience won't notice there isn't much of a plot. But unlike Before Sunrise - a far superior film involving two strangers that meet in Paris - the dialogue here just isn't compelling enough to keep things interesting, giving the film a decidedly padded-out feeling.

But the one thing Jet Lag does have going for it is the two actors, who are far more effective than the movie deserves. Reno stars as Felix, an anxious but successful businessman who's trying to get to Munich for the funeral of someone close to his ex-girlfriend. Unfortunately for him, all the flights out of Paris have been delayed because of striking pilots - a situation that proves to be just as disastrous for Rose (Binoche). She's heading to Mexico both for a vacation and to get away from her abusive boyfriend. Though Felix and Rose seemingly have nothing in common, the two find themselves becoming close as their various attempts to get out of town are foiled.

The disappointing thing about Jet Lag is how engaging it is at the outset. Here are these two great actors thrown into a situation that's been tailor made for a captivating romantic comedy, and slowly but surely the film manages to blow it. Screenwriters Christopher Thompson and Daniele Thompson (who also directed) seem to lack confidence in their ability to pen dialogue, and compensate by throwing in plot devices that are completely unnecessary. It's the sequences that feature Felix and Rose just talking to each other that are the highlight of the film, primarily because of Reno and Binoche's performances. Because Reno's best known for playing confident tough guys, there's something oddly compelling about watching him tackle a character that's prone to fainting spells. It's certainly a different role for the actor, but he does a nice job of ensuring that Felix amounts to more than just ticks and mannerisms. Binoche fares just as well, though she's saddled with a character that's tremendously unlikable for the first half hour of the film.

Which is a big part of the problem, really. Here we have two enormously charismatic actors trapped inside characters that spend nearly half the movie being obnoxious. The idea being, presumably, that they get to expose their true selves as the film progresses - but Jet Lag would have been far more effective if we had been able to root for Felix and Rose right from the beginning. As it is, the movie spends far too much time setting up their would-be romance by having them initially dislike each other. And even at a running time of only 91-minutes, the film often feels substantially longer. Still, Jet Lag remains watchable because of the two stars - but really, with actors of this caliber, it should have been so much more.

out of

© David Nusair