‘Up for Love’.
(photo credit: PR)
UP FOR LOVE
Hebrew title: Le’hitahev Me’al Ha’rosh
Directed by Laurent Tirard With Virginie Efira, Jean Dujardin
Running time: 98 minutes
Check with theaters for subtitle information.
I wanted to like Laurent Tirard’s amiable comedy Up for Love, about a short man and his romance with a tall woman. I always like to root for the little guy, and this seems to be an inexhaustible subject for laughs. In fact, this is a remake of a 2013 Argentinean film; and many sitcoms, among them 30 Rock, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi, have had episodes about such a topic. Maybe a 30-minute television show is the best format to explore the premise. It’s a bit thin for a movie that runs 90-plus minutes, though. But the appealing leads do their best with the parts they are given.
This is the kind of movie that seems to be particularly common in France, where everything and everyone is a little too perfect to be believable. Virginie Efira (who also stars in the recent French film The Sense of Wonder) plays Diane, an attractive, divorced lawyer who still works in a firm with her ex-husband, the weaselly Bruno (Cedric Kahn). When a man calls to tell her that he found the cellphone she had left in a restaurant, she is happy to chat with him. Alexandre (Jean Dujardin, the Oscar-winning actor from The Artist) invites her to meet him for a drink – and to get her phone back– and she agrees.
You already know what’s coming... When Diane arrives at the meeting, she is startled to discover that this charming man with the sexy voice is only four foot five. But Alexandre disarms her by inviting her on a kind of non-date date where his height won’t be an issue – sky diving.
She loves it and agrees to go out with him.
When they are alone together, his height doesn’t bother her. He is funny, smart and accomplished, an architect who flies all over France to work on high-profile building projects. He is amicably divorced, and his 20something son, Benji (César Domboy), an aspiring app designer, lives with him. But inevitably Alexandre gets fed up with the fact that Diane doesn’t want to be seen in public with him and doesn’t want him to meet her family or friends.
Bruno and her assistant find out about the relationship, and Bruno torments her, while she insists that Alexandre is a much better man in every way. She seems to have overcome the height issue, but when she tells her mother about him, her mother freaks out and starts driving the wrong way on a one-way street, a harrowing scene that is supposed to be funny. Her mother can’t accept Alexandre, and it turns out she has a problem with disability.
Diane’s stepfather is hard of hearing, and Diane’s mother doesn’t like to acknowledge the fact. Eventually, her mother comes around after the stepfather gives her a talking to in the vein of the climax of the 1972 film Butterflies Are Free, where a blind young man tells his emotionally stunted girlfriend, “I feel sorry for you because you’re crippled. I’d rather be blind.”
As I watched Up for Love, I thought about two things. The first is how they made six-foot-tall Dujardin look as if he was so much shorter. The effect was accomplished through skillful use of a double, but I found it extremely distracting.
My other thought was what the movie would be like if Alexandre weren’t perfect in every way other than his height. If he actually had a couple of flaws, it wouldn’t be such a relatively easy decision for Diane to ignore his height and start a romance with him. This is like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the movie in which a white girl brings home her black fiance, played by Sidney Poitier, to her racist parents. Since he is a gorgeous and distinguished doctor, they overcome their racism and accept him. Up for Love has basically the same premise, except with height.
It lacks any of the conflict that there might be if Alexandre were a real person who was short instead of a character designed to make people overcome prejudice.