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Originally published Friday, July 8, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

French fluff leaves questions unanswered

Daniel Auteuil's latest vehicle, "Après Vous," is French fluff at its creepiest: illogical, exasperating, overlong and based on characters...

Special to the Seattle Times

Daniel Auteuil's latest vehicle, "Après Vous," is French fluff at its creepiest: illogical, exasperating, overlong and based on characters who are just as empty as the creatures who inhabit Hollywood fluff like "Mr. & Mrs. Smith."

Perhaps the prolific Auteuil wanted to take a break from the more serious French dramas and thrillers he usually makes. Certainly the movie begins promisingly, with a unique and rather daring setup that generates nervous laughter for about half an hour.

Auteuil plays Antoine, a busy Parisian restaurant manager who thinks he's doing a good deed when he saves the life of Louis (José Garcia), a depressed homeless man who tries to hang himself in a park. Antoine then finds himself obliged to baby-sit the increasingly manipulative Louis — and rearrange his own life in the process.

Movie review 1.5 stars

"Après Vous" with Daniel Auteuil, José Garcia. Directed by Pierre Salvadori, from a screenplay by Salvadori, Daniele Dubroux, David Leotard and Benoit Graffin. 110 minutes. In French, with English subtitles. Rated R for profanity, sexual situations. Harvard Exit.

Shortly after the rescue, the laughs trickle away as Antoine begins to behave so strangely that you suspect he's going through some form of midlife crisis. Surely there must be a reason why he flips out to such an extreme degree.

Why does he turn into such a "great guy" that he's willing to alienate his longtime girlfriend (Marilyne Canto) and court bankruptcy to help his new pal? How does he survive being outrageously drunk on the job, and how does he convince his boss that Louis can become a first-class waiter with an impressive knowledge of wines and cuisine? And what's he really trying to accomplish by tracking down Louis' ex-girlfriend (Sandrine Kiberlain)?

Not one of these questions is answered adequately. The characters don't add up; the actors look stranded. Instead of picking up the pace and trying to get by on speed alone, the director and co-writer, Pierre Salvadori, stretches the thin and repetitive plot out to nearly two hours.

Canto, who is required mostly to look angry and baffled, has the most thankless role. Kiberlain gets some comic mileage from her character's understandable confusion. Garcia is able to ground his character from time to time. But the greatest strain is placed on Auteuil, a resourceful actor who has a hard time making Antoine seem anything other than a tedious lunatic.

John Hartl:

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