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JEUX D’ENFANTS / LOVE ME IF YOU DARE (R) (2004)

Paramount Classics

Official Site

Director: Yann Samuell

Producers: Christophe Rossignon

Written by: Yann Samuell

Cast: Gilles Lellouche, Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard, Thibault Verhaeghe, Joséphine Lebas-Joly, Gérard Watkins, Emmanuelle Grönvold

 Rating:


This film was a #1 hit in France. Well, those French, what can one say?

Love Me If You Dare revolves around a relationship of dares, one-upmanship, and emotional dishonesty that stretches from childhood to, well, the end of the movie. As his mother (Grönvold) is being slowly extinguished by cancer, eight-year-old Julien’s (Verhaeghe) attempts to put a brave face on things become more and more outrageous after he befriends local pariah Sophie (Lebas-Joly) and becomes enmeshed in an escalating game of dares. Looking back, adult Julien (Canet) narrates the tale of lives spent playing the game while dancing around their obvious attachment for each other.

The movie’s first section, titled “Game,” tells us how it all gets started. This is easily the best of the film’s stories, strong throughout, where other sections fall down at the ends. The child actors are pleasing and Samuell extends the dabbling in whimsy and magical realism seen in French movies since the runaway success of Amélie. Furthermore, the characters’ motivations are understandable: What alienated child has not wished for a special pal to withdraw from the cruel world with? Their dares result in pranks of questionable taste that, for the most part, are not cruel to others. Very high marks indeed go to Julien’s mother. The character is lovingly drawn and Grönvold’s depiction of unreserved love is moving and wonderful.

Too bad we can’t say the same for “Set,” in which college-age Julien and Sophie (Cotillard) are still the best of buds and still playing their game. Casual exposure to any of a number of “games” movies—Sleuth and Secretary come to mind here—will damp any surprise the filmmakers might have expected us to feel when the pair’s dares exchange humor and playfulness for hurtfulness, dominance, and a willingness to use innocent bystanders. Unfortunately, this also accompanies degeneration into some classic romance-movie clichés, and is followed—in the “Match” section, where Sophie and Julien are married 30-somethings—by a dive into melodrama—twisty melodrama but melodrama nonetheless.

The movie is very French, in many good ways (though there are no scenes of food!). You get your requisite rainy funeral and several versions of “La Vie En Rose,” the film’s theme song. Plus, the leads have undeniable romantic chemistry, even when they play hands most of us would have folded on long ago. Cotillard is especially mesmerizing in the beginning of “Match,” where she exudes sex and danger like Melanie Griffith in Something Wild. Remember how you knew that Jeff Daniels should run like hell, but you also saw the irresistible allure for a guy like him, an allure that was more about stepping outside his everyday persona than about the sex. Love Me If You Dare captures that allure in “Match,” before its descent into a maelstrom of rain, melodrama, and “the power of love.”

It’s better than a rental movie, and parts of Love Me If You Dare are pretty and should be seen on the big screen. But the last 15 or so minutes really knock down the rating. The nouveau roman ending—“The Dare of Dares”—is probably supposed to make viewers argue about what becomes of these lovers. By that time, however, Samuell had used up the reservoir of goodwill he’d built for his little film, and I simply didn’t care. On the whole, though, I’d say see it, especially if, like me, you require something out of the ordinary in order to sit through a romance film.

—Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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