Culture Clash Fail in The Names of Love


The Names of Love
Directed by Michel Leclerc
Music Box Films
Opens June 24, Landmark Sunshine and Paris Theatre

Nothing screams “French crossover comedy” like jokes about Auschwitz and childhood sexual abuse, the main rib-ticklers of Michel Leclerc’s blood-clot-inducing second feature. Co-written with Baya Kasmi, Leclerc’s partner for the past decade, and apparently inspired by their own culture-clash meet-cute, The Names of Love traces the bumptious courtship between reserved middle-aged veterinarian Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin), whose maternal grandparents were killed in the camps, and 20-ish boundary-breaker Baya Benmahmoud (Sara Forestier), the offspring of a radicalized blue-blooded Parisian mother and an Algerian-refugee father. Being molested by her piano teacher as a child has made Baya a “political whore,” bedding right-wingers to convert them to vaguely defined leftist causes, which conveniently affords us lots of peeks at Forestier’s boobs and bush. The backstories of the couple are presented through a series of cloying devices: direct address, flashbacks, younger versions of the protagonists talking to his or her adult self—all in service to the message that anti-Semitism and racism are bad. But the pathetic attempts at outré, taboo-busting humor as sociopolitical commentary can’t disguise what this film really is: a mawkish, MOR comedy of manners that even its straw man Nicolas Sarkozy would find suitable for date night.


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