“L'Auberge Espagnole” does start off slowly and is consistently hobbled by Duris' bland performance and the equally bland character he portrays, but eventually it settles into a pleasing rhythm and mood. The males in the film, however, are never sketched as well as the females. There's no great depth here and a little too much sentiment but, finally, the film emerges as an entertaining and satisfying journey. Starring Romain Duris, Judith Godreche and Audrey Tautou. Produced by Bruno Levy. Directed and written by Cédric Klapisch. A Fox Searchlight release. Comedy/Drama. French- and Spanish-language; subtitled. Rated R for language and sexual content. Running time: 125 min
The adventures of a shy young Frenchman in Spain form the basis of this charming trifle from multi-talented filmmaker Cédric Klapisch. Like British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom ("24 Hour Party People"), Klapisch likes to experiment with different styles and genres, ranging from intimate family drama ("An Air of Family") to dystopic science-fiction ("Peut-Etre"). "L'Auberge Espagnole" is in the vein of '60s American comedies about Yanks set loose in Europe who find love and romance amidst exotic locations. The twist in "L'Auberge Espagnole" is that the person setting out to see the world is European, and his discoveries of other worlds also takes place in Europe, notably in the exotic (to him) Spanish city of Barcelona. There, the 25-year-old Parisian Xavier (Romain Duris), bored and dissatisfied at home, finds love in the arms of married Frenchwoman Anne-Sophie (Judith Godreche). But he also has to deal with Martine (“Amélie's” Audrey Tautou), the emotionally hot-and-cold girlfriend he abandoned in France, and navigate household responsibilities with the polyglot Europeans (from six countries) with whom he shares living quarters. It all adds up to a quirky, often funny, and sometimes wise look at young people trying to find their place in the world. What Klapisch really gets is that it's not where you live but the friends you make abroad that are the stuff of a lifetime of pleasant memories and relationships.