Directed by Patrice Leconte.
Written by Jérôme Tonnerre.
Starring Sandrine Bonnaire and Fabrice Luchini.
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 8/15/04
I'm nearly at the point where I'm going to
see any movie at any local theater that I haven't already seen, and
"Intimate Strangers" fits the bill of a flick that I hadn't even
heard of that I found myself (along with my buddy Yac) watching at
the local indie house.
Directed by Patrice Leconte, who directed
one of my faves from last year,
the Train", "Intimate Strangers" is about a psychoanalyst (Fabrice
Luchini) who is leaving work one day when an attractive woman
(Sandrine Bonnaire) shows up at his doorstep insisting that she had
an appointment and needs to be seen immediately. The good
doctor, not wanting to turn down new business, decides to listen to
her troubles...only to find out that the woman is having marital
problems and needs, well, some big favors in order to make things
work out. There's only one catch--the psychoanalyst really
ISN'T a psychoanalyst...he's a tax lawyer. He'll have to dig
his way out of that one and figure out a way to help this woman
before time runs out on her four-year marriage.
Production is kept to a minimum: only
about five actors have anything vital to say, most of the film takes
place in the lawyer's Parisian office and the soundtrack is a
bare-bones 8-piece string-and-winds engagement that does the job
quite nicely. The script has some fairly original touches (as
original as dramas can be, I guess) based around where the woman's
problems come from and how the occasionally bewildered lawyer works
with the woman to solve her issues. The acting by our two
leads is top notch, and Leconte does a great job of pacing what
could have turned into the most boring film of 2004, which is what
"Intimate Strangers" looked like it was going to be in the first 20
minutes. (The subtitles don't help.) The film tries to
parlay intimacy and eroticism by giving us only hints at what kinds
of things the woman is missing in her relationship; a look here, or
a personal recounting there...this would probably be more effective
on stage, where you could get the more personal side of it when the
actors are collected 20 feet away from you. As it is, I
thought that the "erotic suspense" touted on the film's praise board
outside the theater was a little far-fetched.
For what it is, "Intimate Strangers" doesn't
have enough to say to justify almost 120 minutes of screen time.
The ending, in particular, seemed to drag on for days and
occasionally, some of Leconte's shots last a second or two too long;
the pacing was fine, just that the editing could have used some
work. The comic relief provided by Hélène Surgère as the
lawyer's secretary was good, but sometimes she felt like a ploy to
always provide us with the uncomfortable "Hey, sorry I walked in on
you again, but I need you to review this fax...whoa!" bits and we
could have done with one or two less of those scenes. Also, I
thought a subplot featuring a former lover of the lawyer, played by
Anne Brochet, could have been trimmed to almost nil by adding
another resource for the lawyer to lean on when he starts to
question his relationship with the new "patient." At least
there were no gratuitous ass shots of that guy!!
Yac said it best--"Intimate Strangers" is
your perfect Matinee. It's an average film, with some good
things going for it...but, if I had never seen it, I would really
not be missing much. And, Frenchies don't make many great
great films anyway, right? Hey, if you are itching for an
interesting drama with great acting and you just need something to
fill up a couple of hours, "Intimate Strangers" is your boy.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard