(Trailer not available)
Featuring: Anton Yelchin, Bérénice Marlohe, Lambert Wilson, Olivia Thirlby, Frank Langella, Glenn Close
Screenwriter/Director: Anton Yelchin
Verdict: A lot more rom than com, 5 to 7 is a bit insubstantial in the final analysis, although generally well-wrought and undoubtedly heart-felt.
This earnest little number, set in New York, charts the course of a love affair between an aspiring writer in his mid-20s, Brian (Anton Yelchin), and the married-with-kids Arielle (Berenice Marlohe), a beautiful (of course) French woman in her 30s. She and her much older diplomat husband (Lambert Wilson) have an open marriage along very French cinq a sept lines: that is, any extra-marital love affairs must take place only after work, between the hours of 5 and 7pm.
The New World protagonist is uncomfortable with this orderly Continental arrangement, but it works well enough for him for a while. Indeed, his career begins to take off when he reluctantly attends a party at Arielle’s swank family apartment and meets some influential figures in the arts world, including her well-connected husband’s mistress (Olivia Thirlby), an editor working for a top publisher. It is not long, however, before the smitten Brian is swamped by a tsunami of emotions and refuses to abide by the 9-5 restrictions. His all-or-nothing ultimatums to Arielle flush out the values of the intimately involved characters, ultimately wreaking havoc and taking the narrative to its resolution and conclusion – and into territory that is a little underwhelming compared with its earlier foray into contrasting cultures.
Indeed, Brian’s head-spinning encounters with the libertarian foreign values of the beguiling Arielle and his struggles to accommodate them provide the high points of the movie. Unfortunately, some of the good work unravels when Arielle reveals her past – shades of Pretty Woman here! Couldn’t she just be genuinely removed from the Anglo-American hysteria around sexual fidelity, rather than emotionally damaged and guarded against allowing the full force of love to enter her life? Must Brian the yank come out trumps as the only character courageous enough to face his emotions and act upon them? OK, he’s a writer and we all know that ‘real’ writers are supposed to venture where mere mortals fear to tread, but still… Harumph!
The film resists generic categorisation. It takes itself and its characters too seriously to neatly fit the rom-com label – indeed, there’s a lotta rom and not much com going down here. And while there are echoes of good ole-fashioned stylish Hepburn-era romance, this is Hollywood with a distinctly French accent courtesy of writer/director Victor Levin, and therefore not Hollywood at all.
Out-of-time and generically hybrid though it may be, 5 to 7 coheres because it is well-crafted on the whole. The writing is particularly strong. It has an elegant literary quality about it that translates successfully to screen, firstly because Levin writes pretty damned well, and secondly because the lead character, who slips in and out of narrator mode, is a writer. While “literary” scripts like this can come across as pretentious, such charges do not hold up here. Levin’s pen is dipped in the ink of emotional truth and bared sentiment. Brave stuff in these days of unrelenting irony, and good on him for putting himself and his characters out there.
However, while the quality of the writing and performances will head off ridicule from audiences steeped in a culture of cynicism and wry takes on lurve and romance, emotional input does not correlate with output. Indeed, the film leaves you thinking rather than feeling – and not for long. It’s all a bit insubstantial, although generally well-wrought and undoubtedly heart-felt.
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