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I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single (15)

Nicola Mostyn is wooed by a daft Gallic romcom

Published on November 7th 2007.

I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single (15)

If you recently sat through The Heartbreak Kid you’d be forgiven for steering well clear of any romantic comedy which takes as its premise a successful, forty-something single guy getting grief off his family for not being married.

Thankfully there is much more wit and charm in this French comedy, even if its plot is scarcely more believable than the Farrelly Brothers’ effort.

Directed by Eric Lartigau, I Do gives us Luis Costa (Alain Chabat), a perfume designer whose mother and five sisters, tired of taking care of him, resolve to set him up with a series of potential wives.

Exasperated by their efforts and uninterested in commitment, Luis hatches a nutty plan to hire someone to play his girlfriend: they’ll ‘fall in love’, she’ll ditch him at the altar and his family will feel so sorry for him they’ll never mention the W word again. Simple. So when his best friend’s sister, Emmanuelle, arrives in Paris in search of work, the plan gets underway. Well, with a few hitches…quelle surprise.

Yes, I admit, the business-arrangement relationship is a rather tired romantic device (Paul and Gail tried that trick in Neighbours circa 1987), but you can forgive I Do because it approaches the whole thing with its tongue in its cheek, right from the initial hilarious flashback where Luis, dumped by his first love, recreates her scent, leading him to become a brilliant ‘nose.’

Yes, yes, I realise that normally lovesickness leads to alcoholism and personal hygiene issues, not a fancy-dan career in the Parisian fragrance industry but loosen up kiddo, realism is not the watchword here.

Hence, having shrugged off any attachment to a convincing plot, the film just sets out to be great, frothy fun. And, since it is easy enough to predict the end result of the pair’s supposedly unromantic match, much of the energy is channelled into creating daft scenes and humorous dialogue.

Alain Chabat is charming as the bachelor who wants to get one over on his family, never losing his warmth and likeability despite the dubious nature of his plan. As the offbeat, independent fiancé-for-hire with a dress sense to die for, Charlotte Gainsbourg is the kind of girl guys want to be with and girls want to be. Indeed I shall be henceforth be modelling myself on Ms Gainsbourg despite being eighteen feet taller than me.

Despite what might at first seem like cookie-cutter characterisations (the savvy single woman, the hard-to-catch man) both Luis and Emmanuelle benefit from some subtle shading and while Luis’ mother and sisters never really get their personalities fleshed out beyond ‘fond but overbearing’ there is a really enjoyable depiction of friendship between Luis and his best friend Pierre-Yves (Gregoire Oestermann).

With the comedy thankfully only just tipping over into farce (an uproarious scene involving sex and a saddle springs to mind), the laughs are moderate and pretty much continuous and while I Do is certainly no cinematic masterpiece, it does provide some charming company in which to spend an Autumn afternoon.

Rating: 7/10

I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single is at Cornerhouse until Nov 15.

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