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Critics' Pick Chinese Puzzle (Casse-tete chinois)

Movie Details

Chinese Puzzle (Casse-tete chinois)
  • Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
  • Release Date: 2014-05-16 NY/LA
  • Running Time: 114 min.
  • Director: Cédric Klapisch
  • Cast: Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou, Cecile De France, Amanda M. Rodriguez, Sandrine Holt, Romain Duris, Kevin Bishop, Toshiko Onizawa, Adrian Martinez, Li Jun Li
  • Producers: Cedric Klapisch, Bruno Levy
  • Writer: Cedric Klapisch
  • Distributor: Cohen Media Group
  • Official Site: Chinese Puzzle (Casse-tete chinois) Official Site

As the American university industry makes study abroad programs all but mandatory and damn luxurious at that, it can be tempting to write off Cédric Klapisch's films as idealistic romps, prepackaged adventures for the privileged class who can actually afford to enact them. But his Trilogy of Xavier's Travels predates the politics, and over a decade since the series started, it's still that same earnest tribute to the thrills of taking on a new locale.

In this final installment, Xavier (Romain Duris) and the friends he originally made in L'Auberge Espagnole (2002) are on the brink of 40. Two kids and two unsuccessful novels into life, intrepid writer Xavier is off to New York this time, as a last-ditch attempt to salvage his family in the wake of an impromptu divorce. The gang's all here -- Audrey Tautou, Kelly Reilly, and Cécile de France reprise their roles as the women in Xavier's life, all somehow just as fresh-faced and vivacious as they were at 25. Babies are all the rage; in one of the first scenes, our protagonist is donating sperm to lesbian best friend Isabelle, and his two other paramours are already seasoned parents. But that doesn't mean anyone has anything figured out.

Xavier continues to solicit advice from phantom German philosophers and subscribes as heartily as ever to his mantra, "I am a mess." With each of these movies, Klapisch reiterates a core sentiment behind all the romantic comedy: that lives are continuously pieced together, broken, and rearranged in different settings. All that screwing and screwing up in between? Totally necessary.

Heather Baysa

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