Bon Voyage (2003) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some violence
Running Time: 114 min.
Cast: Gregore Derangere, Isabelle Adjani, Virginie Ledoyen, Yvan Attal, Peter Coyote, Gerard Depardieu, Jean-Marc Stehle
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau
Screenplay: Giles Marchand, Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Julien Rappeneau, Jerome Tonnerre
Review published January 30, 2004
Every once in a while, I will come across a film where everything seems to fall right into place, but it still fails to satisfy. Bon Voyage is a prime example of this kind of movie. Upon first impression, it is undoubtedly well-made, with gorgeous cinematography, detailed sets and costumes, an excellent cast, a rousing score, and direction that never misses a beat. The script moves at a brisk pace, with wit and panache, with colorful characters and provocative situations. And yet, it is just too dull to recommend. Perhaps the constant onscreen hullabaloo and farcical humor are merely masks, meant to cover up the fact that, at its core, Bon Voyage doesn't really have anything fresh or interesting to say, content to never let us rest for a moment, lest we come to the same realization that the filmmakers did while making it.
It's a large ensemble cast, with Derangere taking up more of the screen time as Frederic, a screenwriter who visits his old flame, Viviane (Isabelle Adjani, Ishtar), one of the leading silver screen movie actresses of the day. It seems a strange man has been after Viviane for some reason, and when finally confronted in her home, the man ends up dead, calling up her old beau to assist her. Frederic ends up taking the rap for the murder to protect her, but the German invasion allows him an easy chance to escape from the prison, but once he's out, he discovers that Viviane is up to her old tricks, using her feminine guile to get men to do her bidding, this time one of the government ministers, Beaufort (Depardieu, The Man in the Iron Mask). Along the way, Frederic befriends a young woman, Camille (Ledoyen, 8 Women) who is traveling with a physics professor, trying desperately to get the heavy water in the back of their car out of the country before the Nazis get their hands on it.
Rappeneau tries valiantly to inject life into this storyline, and while there are some occasional moments of interest that bubble up to the surface, for the most part, Bon Voyage is predictable and ineffective in generating much interest. While everyone involved gives it their all, the story is just clichéd and despite the zestful energy, quite tired, and with the constant need to keep moving without pause, rooting interest is never allowed to set in. While there is no doubt an amusing undertone to most of the scenes, few laughs can be found, despite the well-timed delivery by the capable cast.
Bon Voyage is a marvelous looking, sounding and feeling film, so people who love their films to seem lavish and sophisticated, probably won't give a damn about the plot, content to enjoy all of the bells and whistles that Rappeneau and crew pull off so well. Sadly, it's all much ado about nothing, neither compelling nor memorable, with the end result feeling like the Nazi occupation was a pretty swell time to be in France. Luckily, the ageless Adjani and Ledoyen are easy on the eyes, though, so it wasn't really as bad a trip as it could have been, all things considered.
©2004 Vince Leo