Few cinematic passions have proved more enduring than the love of a man for his best friend’s wife. Love Etc. adds a touch of millennial fever and some stylistic flourishes. Adapted from Julian Barnes’s bestseller, Talking It Over, Marion Vernoux’s third feature retains a good measure of the novel’s comic elegance, but its characters drown in excessive verbiage and familiar posturing. As Pierre, Charles Berling plays his perennial role—a lust-ridden, angst-filled, eternally adolescent intellectual. His best friend, Benoit (Yvan Attal), a pathologically shy banker blessed with domestic virtues, meets Marie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a pretty art restorer, through the personals. When they wed, Pierre discovers his sensitive side and true feelings. Smartly shot in chic apartments, with a soulful Tom Waits score, Love Etc. is stuffed with talent, though I’m not sure what part belongs to the director. The admirable Gainsbourg refrains from overacting, but her leading men never quite transcend the emptiness and inanity of their characters’ dilemma.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 29, 1999