“Her utmost fear is of letting people down” says Isabelle Carré of the protagonist in her latest project, Romantics Anonymous.
The film is guilty-viewing at its finest; a quirky story that brings together life’s great pleasures and packages them neatly into a bite-sized piece of confectionery.
A cynic would tell you it was all part of a clever marketing ploy but really, would it even matter? If anything could cure a cynic, this would be eat (ahem, it).
The film tells the story of Angelique (Isabelle Carré) and Jean-René (Benoît Poelvoorde). Both are emotionally dysfunctional; unable to overcome their own crippling anxiety, they have become isolated from world around them. When Angelique applies for a position at the struggling chocolate factory run by Jean-René, the two share an immediate and unexpected bond that soon forces them to confront their greatest fears, with often amusing results.
The part of Angelique is particularly close to Carré’s heart. The film’s director, Jean-Pierre Améris, wrote the film with her in mind.
“Angelique is a young lady who is actually frozen in her loneliness,” she explains. “The song that I sing in the movie, I believe in myself, it’s actually something that I used to do when I was dealing with some difficult times.”
The actress is a veteran of the French stage and screen. She previously worked with Améris on Maman Est Folle, a film that also explores the isolation and loneliness of people, and earlier this year appeared on stage in Pensées Secrètes.
Although she prefers the challenge of live theatre, Carré says she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with her close friend again.
“Jean-Pierre is such a human and beautiful person, he’s very sensitive.”
Though some will feel the character’s complicated lives difficult to relate to, Carré maintains the film is one that will resonate with most audiences.
“This problem affects pretty much everyone… We all have our little problems, our fragilities,” she says.
“And in a world where we all have to be such performers, we all have to be so strong, we always have to show off and say, ‘I’m OK, I’m alright’… this little awkwardness is very charming.”
The film did particularly well in Japan, which the actress attributes to the importance of social status within the ancient culture.
“You always have to maintain this very cold façade. And the fact that those Japanese audiences could identify with those characters, it allowed them to be more free.”
The film’s undeniable love affair with chocolate makes its story particularly appetizing.
“Chocolate evokes sensuality, it evokes joy of living, it evokes reassurance,” explains Carré with the same earnest passion displayed by her character.
To prepare for the role, she attended classes under the guidance of master pastry chef and France’s most celebrated macaron maker, Pierre Hermé. Carré says it was a challenge she was more than happy to take on.
Yet such an admission is hardly surprising. On a film like this, surely a love of chocolate would be a given?
“It was fabulous!” she confirms of the decadence enjoyed on set.
“One the other hand, Benoît does not like eating chocolate in real life… it was much harder for him.”
With a recipe seemingly designed for box-office success (even a few musical numbers are thrown in for good measure), it may all prove a bit too rich for some.
For the rest of us, the story’s charm and naivety will make the experience feel over all too quickly. At just 78 minutes long, Romantics Anonymous may be short but boy, it sure is sweet!
Romantics Anonymous is available on DVD. The film is rated M
Image: courtesey of Think Tank Communications, used with permission