J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

5 to 7: The Rules of Infidelity, According to the French

The French are so sophisticated about love and sex. Wannabe literary hipsters are so not. Yet, for reasons bafflingly obscure, a retired French model picks an aspiring New Yorker short story writer for her evening dalliances. They can only meet for two hours in the early evening because according to French tradition that is the time when husbands and wives might be indisposed without arousing suspicion. Of course, her unlikely lover has trouble with their arrangement because he is so hopelessly bourgeoisie. There is culture clash on the Upper Eastside in Victor Levin’s 5 to 7 (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

It is pretty clear from his constant bittersweet narration, if Brian Bloom ever made it as writer, it is because he had his heart ripped out and stomped on. The glamorous Arielle looks like the perfect woman to do it. Much to Bloom shock (and the audience’s disbelief), the slightly older French woman is receptive when he awkwardly approaches he outside the St. Regis. She rather enjoys his earnest geekiness and recommends he meet her again the following week at the same time and place. That would be after five, of course. She makes no secret of her marriage, but stresses they must follow the rules.

We eventually learn Bloom was raised Jewish, but he is more uptight about this sort of thing than a repressed Protestant with body issues. Just having some ships-in-the-night fun is beyond him, but Arielle’s charm and beauty have him bewitched. She even introduces him to her gracious editor at FSG (you won’t find any Harlequin drones at their shindigs). Although it is unfathomable for the audience, everyone believes in Bloom’s potential, but he jeopardizes everything by falling in love with Arielle.

On the one hand, Levin captures a vivid sense of why New York is such an alluring city in the first place. When he goes for pure elegance and ambiance, 5 to 7 is rather entertaining like a one night assignation, heavy on champagne and light on consequences. Unfortunately, Bloom’s narration will have viewers pulling their hair out and his dialogue often sounds like it was written with a laugh track in mind. As it happens, Levin has extensive television credits with shows like Mad About You and Dream On.

According to imdb, less than ten years separate co-leads Anton Yelchin and Bérénice Marlohe, but he looks about fourteen years old and she looks incredible. James Bond had good reason to be upset when Javier Bardem killed her character in Skyfall. She is trés charmant and makes her scenes with Yelchin work, despite the glib, sitcommy banter he is stuck with. As the suave Valéry, Lambert Wilson makes Charles Boyer look like Walter Brennan, but he is also shockingly compelling when defending the rules and rituals required to keep up appearances. However, when Glenn Close and Frank Langella show up as Bloom’s bickering parents, we find ourselves expecting the laugh track to kick in again.

Levin is clearly aiming for old fashioned romance and the exquisite regret of love lost. We could use more of that sort of vibe in films today, but 5 to 7 would have worked better if he kept it simpler, straighter, and quieter. It should play quite well on television, but for those craving a decidedly nostalgic rom com, 5 to 7 opens tomorrow (4/3) in New York, at the IFC Center.

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