Neither scary nor distinctive

‘The Double Lover’ is doubly disappointing.

The Double Lover  (photo credit: PR)
The Double Lover
(photo credit: PR)
THE DOUBLE LOVER Hebrew title: Me’ahev Kaful Directed by Francois Ozon With Marine Vacth, Jérémie Renier, Jacqueline Bisset Running time: 107 minutes In French. Check with theaters for subtitle information.
Francois Ozon’s latest film, The Double Lover, is a stylish looking, carefully made thriller that isn’t very scary or distinctive.
It’s a combination of Rosemary’s Baby, every evil-twin movie you’ve ever seen, and a chic high-end perfume ad, with an emphasis on the ad. Everyone looks great, and the real-estate pornography is almost as hot as the sex. But in order for us to be jolted by the surprises and danger, there has to be a character we identify with and worry about. Unfortunately Chloe, the former model turned museum guard who is the heroine, is too blank for us to care about much.
She’s played by the impossibly gorgeous Marine Vacth, who was the upper-class high-school girl turned prostitute in Ozon’s Young and Beautiful. She is truly so young and beautiful that for some, the chance to see her will be enough to make the movie worthwhile. But while in the former film she was entertaining as a teen thrilled to discover the power her beauty suddenly gives her, here she plays a woman who feels empty and lacks affect. Her short haircut and tailored pantsuits that hang loose on her slender body say more about her than either Vacth’s performance or Ozon’s script.
The film opens with her getting a haircut, which is as riveting as anything that follows. Suffering from stomach pains, she goes to a psychiatrist, Paul Meyer (Jérémie Renier), the kind who listens and doesn’t talk much, and discusses her aches and her feeling that she can’t love anyone. When he tells her he can’t treat her anymore and confesses his romantic feelings for her, she seems happy, and they move in together. There is a creepy neighbor, but otherwise all seems well.
Glimpsing Paul on the street with a glamorous woman when she is taking the bus back from her museum job — which seems to be an excuse for Ozon to show her looking wan and chic wearing her black uniform in all-white galleries — she gets home and goes through his things. Discovering he has passports and other ID with a different name, she confronts him.
but he dismisses her concerns.
Investigating a little, she finds there is another shrink in town with Paul’s other last name, and she makes an appointment with him. This psychiatrist, Louis Delord, turns out to be his identical twin and is also played by Renier. Louis is the kind of therapist who talks a lot and is opinionated and insulting. After she kisses him, he becomes her lover, and their sex is much more passionate than the kind she has with Paul.
Soon, Chloe is pregnant, but which twin is the father? She becomes aware that there is a rift between the two brothers and goes to visit another woman who was involved with both of them, who is now in a vegetative state following a botched suicide attempt. This woman is tended to by her mother, who is played by celebrated British actress Jacqueline Bisset, whom you may remember from such films as Bullitt and Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night.
The story gets more complicated, and Chloe’s cat disappears. For me, the real suspense was wondering how gross it would be when the cat turned up dead, but this was the one instance in which the movie surprised me.
As creepy-twin movies go, it’s far from the most disturbing. That honor could arguably go to David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, with Jeremy Irons as twin gynecologists who turn on each other. There is little suspense in The Double Lover if you’ve ever seen one of these other movies, with the exception of the cat’s fate. So what is there? Sexy people having sex, mostly, and great apartments.
As I was watching the movie, noticing its Rosemary’s Baby references, I thought about Mia Farrow’s performance in the lead role in that film, which I believe is underrated. As absurd as that plot gets, we always care about Rosemary and believe that she is in peril. Vacth is no Mia Farrow; and Double Lover, as glossy and great-looking as it is, will be quickly forgotten.