[Screen It]


(1998) (Marie Rivière, Béatrice Romand) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Mild None Moderate None None
Minor None None None Minor
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild None Minor Mild None

Drama: Two women of separate generations try to fix up a lonely, middle-aged friend of theirs with different men.
Isabelle (MARIE RIVIÈRE), a city bookseller and Magali (BÉATRICE ROMAND), a small country vintner, have been lifelong friends. As Isabelle plans an upcoming wedding for her daughter, Émilia (AURÉLIA ALCAÏS), she realizes that her best friend, a 45-year-old widow whose grown kids have recently moved out, doesn't seem happy.

Magali's other friend, twenty-something Rosine (ALEXIA PORTAL) senses the same thing. While she may be in an on-again, off-again relationship with Magali's son, Léo (STÉPHANE DARMON), she still sees her ex-lover and former philosophy teacher, Étienne (DIDIER SANDRE), albeit on a mostly platonic level.

While Rosine coyly refuses Étienne's desire for them to be lovers again, she concocts an idea to set up Magali with her former love, especially since they're approximately of the same age. Unbeknownst to her, however, Isabelle has secretly placed a dating ad for Magali. As such, she meets Gérald (ALAIN LIBOLT), a now single, middle-aged man who mistakenly believes Isabelle to be his blind date.

With Isabelle checking out Gérald to make sure he's suitable for her friend and Rosine similarly trying to play matchmaker, everything comes to a head as everyone attends the wedding hoping to find romance of their own.

It's extremely unlikely that kids will want to see a relatively unknown cast in this subtitled, and quite slow-moving, French drama.
For mild thematic elements.
  • MARIE RIVIÈRE plays a city bookseller who tries to set up her best friend with a blind date, and briefly posing as her friend, finds herself nearly falling for the guy.
  • BÉATRICE ROMAND plays that friend, a lonely, widowed vintner whose adult kids have moved out and who isn't sure she wants a man in her life.
  • ALEXIA PORTAL plays a twenty-something student who similarly wants to get her friend Magali hooked up with someone. While she's dating that woman's son, she also seems to carry a flame for her much older professor and ex-lover, a man she states that she pursued and not vice- versa.
  • STÉPHANE DARMON plays her boyfriend who wants her to move in with him and is jealous of her questionably platonic relationship with that professor.
  • DIDIER SANDRE plays the middle-aged professor who had a fling with Rosine, one of his former students (he seems to have a penchant for much younger women).
  • ALAIN LIBOLT plays a now single, middle-aged man who falls for Isabelle when he thinks she's his blind date.


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    Like many things in life, the process of dating and/or nabbing a significant other is cyclical. At a young age, kids are often scared of showing their true emotions and thus have others serve as romantic messengers between them and the object of their affection. In later years, one's confidence has presumably grown and asking out others becomes an easier -- or at least straight forward -- task.

    Nonetheless, many years later and after separation, divorce or death has left them single once again, those who are middle-aged or older often find reentering the dating game a daunting task. As such, they often return to their early shy state and rely on their friends to serve as dating liaisons. That's the underlying gist of writer/director Eric Rohmer's "Autumn Tale," a glacially paced but moderately interesting romantic drama.

    The last installment of in a quartet of seasoning titled and thematically similar films (the "Tales of Four Seasons"), this film is an unusual mix of at once being ultra methodical in structure, yet casually meandering in overall feel. Characters simply get together and talk like some old friends who are in no hurry to say or do much of anything tremendously important or compelling.

    While some of that is appropriate -- the two leads are old friends who would naturally act that way -- at moments you may find yourself thinking "Enough already! Let's get this story moving." Of course it's quite obvious that the 79-year-old Rohmer (who's won or been nominated for various awards over his long career, including a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination for 1969's "My Night at Maud's") is slowly allowing his characters to develop. While we hope that they might eventually simmer, they unfortunately never even come anywhere close to a full boil.

    Although this approach mostly works in that we get to know the characters simply by being in their company for nearly two hours, I kept wanting the story to pick up the pace and delve further into the more meaty -- albeit lean -- subject matter.

    In the film's press kit, Rohmer states that he tries to allow his characters to take the story where they may -- thus the random quality -- but one can't help but notice a methodically unfolding substructure slowly nudging the story forward along its predetermined path. Little, if anything, comes as a surprise, and one can pretty much predict what will happen long before it ever does.

    Of course, that's because the story is moving so slowly that you'll have plenty of time to reflect on what's happened or will happen, as well as whether you remembered to roll up the car windows and/or what you should put on this week's grocery list.

    It's quite obvious that Rohmer isn't that concerned with the story and instead allows the characters to make the film work. While some enjoy this sort of experience, plot-driven moviegoers like myself often become irritated at pictures that are too slow to develop. An easy remedy for this "malady" did exist, but the seasoned filmmaker let it slip right through his fingers.

    Despite having the structure and setup in place to deliver such goods, Rohmer opted not to include much of any comedic elements into the proceedings. Beyond a few repeated lines about Rosine's ex-lover becoming her future father-in-law should two subsequent, but highly unlikely marriages take place, the rest of the film is void of some much needed comic relief and/or situational humor.

    For instance, having the two matchmakers' blind dates for Magali occurring at the same place -- unbeknownst to either them or the parties involved -- is the stuff of which romantic comedies dream to build up to. Yet, this film and its characters continue to coast through this sequence, like the rest of the film, in an unhurried and unimaginative neutral gear where everything is slow to be introduced and then develop.

    That pretty much explains the performer's acting style as well, although that's not to say that they're bad. Instead, it's just that the characters are so lifelike and identifiable that they come off more like real people than movie characters. While that's a testament to their good performances, the "realism" has the effect of somewhat dampening the overall proceedings.

    It's a bit difficult to explain, but one is apt to get the feeling that they're hanging out with some longtime friends instead of watching characters in a movie. I for one enjoy movies that present characters or situations that don't fall into the everyday realm of life -- escapism if you will -- and the ones here give the feeling of sitting around with a bunch of friends talking about their dating problems.

    The effect is soothing and moderately pleasing, but with the characters' long, blank stares and other non movie-like reactions to comments or unfolding events, the movie subsequently never seems terribly compelling or for that matter, very entertaining.

    That said, the performances are all quite good. Both Marie Rivière ("A Winter's Tale") and Béatrice Romand (her first film since 1987's "Four Adventures of Reinette and Mirabelle") create entirely believable characters to such a degree that, as stated above, they seem far more like real people than movie creations. While we thus like them despite, or because of their flaws, their realistic qualities prevent the film from feeling "larger than life."

    Supporting performances from the likes of Alexia Portal (making her film debut) as the young and fetching student, Didier Sandre ("Coming To Terms"), as her more worldly and "Lolita" craving professor and Alain Libolt ("Bernie") as the middle-aged man looking for love, are all decent across the board.

    While some viewers might not agree at all with our objections and instead, absolutely love the film, its characters and their French country setting, others may find the film too slow for their liking. Although the film certainly isn't anywhere near being bad, we simply wish that its plot were a bit more substantial, its pacing increased, and that at least a few laughs had been thrown in to diversify the proceedings and make them more enjoyable. As it stands, "Autumn Tale" is decent, but in our opinion way too slow and certainly difficult to watch more than once. As such, we give it a 5 out of 10.

    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this PG rated, subtitled drama. A few brief sexually related comments are made (about "sleeping together," etc...), and a few bad attitudes exist in the form of a young woman toying with her boyfriend's heart, some characters trying to set up a woman on a blind date without her permission or willingness, and one woman posing as another woman on those blind dates. Beyond that and some social wine drinking, however, the remaining categories have little or nothing in the way of major objectionable content.

  • Magali is a vintner and as such there's some talk of winemaking.
  • Isabelle and her husband, their daughter and future son-in-law have wine.
  • We see that Isabelle and Magali have had wine with a meal.
  • Isabelle and her husband have wine.
  • Rosine and a friend of hers have had wine and offer some to Léo, but he declines.
  • Gérald has wine.
  • Magali offers to get a drink for Isabelle who accepts.
  • Others drink wine in the background of a scene.
  • People, including Gérald, have wine at a wedding reception. Later, he tells Magali they should go for a drink, but she says she isn't thirsty.
  • Étienne and Rosine drink wine.
  • None.
  • Some may see Étienne as having some of both for having dated Rosine, his former student and a young woman half his age (although others may see her as having both for being the one who pursued him).
  • Isabelle places an ad for Magali in the dating classifieds without telling her (but in an attempt to help her). She then poses as her friend when meeting Gérald and doesn't tell him the truth until after several "dates." She also begins to have some romantic feelings for him, but nothing comes of this.
  • Rosine strings along Léo and makes him jealous by continuing to see Étienne (although she claims their relationship is platonic).
  • Étienne tells Rosine that if he dated Magali, "I'd cheat on her with you."
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrase: "Idiots."
  • Some kids may get the idea to place a dating classified ad for someone else as a joke, or to pose as a friend while interacting with a stranger.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • 1 damn (in English subtitles) is used as an exclamation.
  • Isabelle shows a tiny bit of cleavage on several occasions (once in a camisole-like negligee).
  • We learn that Étienne and Rosine are former lovers and she tells him that she's more comfortable hanging out with Magali because "there's no desire" (to tempt her).
  • Étienne starts to nuzzle Rosine's neck and starts to slide her dress strap down off her shoulder, but she stops him.
  • Magali says that her daughter left to live with her boyfriend.
  • After Rosine says that her nights are spent sleeping, Léo tells her that she can sleep with him. She then tells him that she and Étienne agreed not to sleep together or see each other for a while (so that they can become friends instead of just ex-lovers), and she then briefly mentions the last time she slept with Léo (but there are no other details).
  • Étienne tells Rosine that if he dated Magali, "I'd cheat on her with you."
  • Magali tells Isabelle "I'm not in the mood to seduce anyone tonight" when the latter asks the former why she didn't catch a ride home with Gérald.
  • None.
  • We hear that Magali's husband and father died sometime in the past, but little is made of this.
  • We hear that Gérald is separated from his wife.
  • Whether Magali's friends should have tried to set her up.
  • Dating in one's middle age and whether people always need a "significant other" around.
  • Working as a vintner.
  • The relationship between twenty-something Rosine and her former and much older professor, Étienne.
  • None.

  • Reviewed July 2, 1999 / Posted August 13, 1999

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