Here’s something you don’t see very often: an ACT UP march in Paris in which the principals burst into song. But the scene’s strange mix of emotions—joyous musical outbursts in the midst of a politically charged occasion—is typical of Jeanne and the Perfect Guy, a contemporary musical in the tradition of Jacques Demy’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The new movie’s heroine (a radiant Virginie Ledoyen) is a travel agency receptionist who leaps from one sexual entanglement to the next, hoping to find her ideal man. Trouble is, she has only a vague notion of what she’s searching for, so virtually any man her age—from the denim-clad
motorcycle messenger who brings her packages to the vain executives at her travel agency office to a handsome stranger on the Métro—is worth a try.
Though she’s something of a wildcat in bed, Jeanne has a short attention span when it comes to relationships. The exception is Olivier, played by Mathieu Demy, the son of directors Jacques Demy and Agnès Varda. But Olivier has a secret: he’s HIV positive. As usual, Jeanne’s morning-after reaction is breezy denial: “That’s okay,” she chirps. “We used a condom.” At this point, the film seems to divide in half: the less interesting story follows Jeanne’s almost delusional faith in love as a great healer. The other thread involves François (Jacques Bonnaffee), a gay professor-activist who knows both Jeanne and Olivier, and has far more depth. As a
musical, Jeanne and the Perfect Guy suffers from a treacly sameness in its songs (the only notable exception is a number performed by the African cleaning staff at Jeanne’s office). As a love story, the movie is alternately charming and grim. In the end, the message is, the more people profess—and sing about—love, the less they feel it.