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With: Juliette Binoche, Jean Reno, Sergi López, Scali Delpeyrat
Written by: Danièle Thompson, Christopher Thompson
Directed by: Danièle Thompson
MPAA Rating: R for language and brief sexuality
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 91
Date: 09/07/2002

Jet Lag (2003)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Jet' Set

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Like Alex & Emma, Jet Lag takes place mostly in one room. But unlike Alex & Emma, Jet Lag shows enough faith in its writing and in its characters to leave them there.

Filmmaker Daniele Thompson began as a successful screenwriter in the 1960s and turned in such scripts as Cousin, Cousine, Queen Margot and Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train. She made her directorial debut in 1999 with La Bûche, a light, funny, but angst-ridden comedy set during the Christmas holidays.

Imbued with a similar tone, Thompson's new film features Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno (speaking mostly French) as two luckless travelers in Paris. Thanks to a strike, their respective flights have been cancelled, and they have nothing to do but hang around the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport and wait.

Cast against type and excessively made up to just within Tammy Faye Bakker territory, Binoche plays Rose, a cosmetics expert who drops her constantly beeping cell phone in the ladies' loo just as she's flushed it.

She encroaches upon former chef-turned-frozen food baron Felix (Reno) and borrows his phone. But thanks to caller ID, all of Rose's friends and neighbors now have Felix's number and do not hesitate to use it. Felix is forced to find Rose in the busy airport and relay her messages.

One such message gets Rose into hot water with her latest scumbag boyfriend, whom she's just tried to flee.

Just when our heroes are doomed to depart, fate brings them together yet again. When Felix gets a hotel room for the night and Rose doesn't, he offers to let her stay in his.

Hence, the couple spends a good deal of time in that room talking and building up both attraction and repulsion toward each other; much like the standard Hollywood romantic comedy formula but sweeter and smarter. Thompson uses Binoche and Reno's star power and charisma to fill up the screen, rather than relying on flashbacks or cheesy "opening-up" montages.

The director plays her actors like chess pieces against one another: He's prone to fits of passing out. She's cold and wants the window shut; he's hot and wants it open. He can't stand the way she eats, etc.

But when Rose takes a shower and emerges freshly scrubbed, hair down and sans makeup and hairspray, she's a true vision. Poor Felix is only a mere mortal. His breath is stolen away. It's like the Ally Sheedy makeover in The Breakfast Club, but in reverse.

In the morning, their flights are rescheduled and Thompson dedicates the rest of the movie to getting them back together.

Like La Bûche, Jet Lag is funny and bright and deals with characters just damaged enough to make them comfortable. Thompson is no Eric Rohmer, but she could actually be a wiser French version of Nora Ephron; Thompson even tops her film off with a schmaltzy, sun-kissed happy ending. No matter. By that time, we're too blissed out to care.

(This review originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.)

DVD Details: Letterboxed transfer, good, clean subtitles and an English-language track with what sounds like Reno and Binoche speaking their own English.

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