Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video

Julien (Canet) & Sophie (Cotillard)
Photo: Paramount Classics

Directed & Written by: Yann Samuell.
Produced by: Christophe Rossignon.
Director of Photography: Antoine Roche.
Edited by: Andrea Sedlackova.
Music by: Philippe Rombi.
Released by: Paramount Classics.
Country of Origin: France/Belgium. 94 min. Rated: R.
With: Guillaume Canet & Marion Cotillard.

Childhood best friends Julien and Sophie grow into adulthood together playing a private game of dare - whoever has possession of a tin box has immunity, while the other has to act out. At age eight, their dares range from Sophie telling her teacher the letter "b" stands for boner, to Julien pissing in his pants in front of the principal. This ritual becomes complicated when, as college students, they don't know when the other is still playing the game. Both are afraid to give in and admit they're in love.

The motherless Julien is as vulnerable as many of Steven Spielberg's male protagonists. With its constantly moving camera, fantastical computer-generated images, and a soaring John Williams-like score, Love Me If You Dare has a fairy tale element reminiscent of AI Artificial Intelligence, while Julien's voice-over, galloping from scene to scene, is similar to the tall tales of Big Fish. As visually dazzling as that or any world created by Tim Burton, Love Me If You Dare's obsessive and lonely anti-heroes would be at home in his films. But any intimacy is overwhelmed by the special effects and a thunderous sound design.

By the time the would-be lovers reach their thirties, their total self-involvement and lack of consideration for others come across as aloof and condescending. It's as if director/writer Samuell is daring the audience to care about - let alone embrace - his misfits. The higher the stakes, the more noxious and amoral the game. (It may be somewhat tolerable only because the leads are easy on the eyes. Incidentally, Marion Cotillard, as the adult Sophie, also appears in Big Fish.) Unconvincingly, the hopeful side of this schizophrenic film wins out over its mostly cynical side, with a tacked-on happy ending. Although fast-paced with unpredictable twists and turns, the game doesn't live up to Julien's description of it as being "better than drugs, sex, masturbation" - which is quite a tall order. Kent Turner
May 21, 2004



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