Love Me If You Dare (2003) / Comedy-Romance
aka Jeux d'Enfants
MPAA Rated: R for language and some sexuality
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard, Gerard Watkins, Emmanuelle Gronvold, Thibault Verhaeghe, Josephine Lebas-Joly, Gilles Lellouche
Director: Yann Samuell
Screenplay: Jacky Cukier, Yann Samuell
On occasion, there will come a film that manages to press every button that annoys me. Even if the film is directed with energy, the screenplay crackles with inspiration, and the dialogue dances off the page, there is just something about the movie as a whole that will not allow me to praise it as a film worth watching. In the case of Love Me If You Dare, there are probably several things, each having a domino effect to make me ultimately despise it, despite the quality in which it is has been put together. Perhaps the biggest peeve I have is that it seems to celebrate sociopathic behavior as cute and living for the moment without regard for others as the ultimate way to show you're living life to its fullest potential.
As children, Julien (Canet, The Beach) and Sophie (Cotillard, Big Fish) were misfits who bonded with each other, each taking turns playing a game of "dare" symbolized by the exchange of a tin can depicting a merry-go-round. Lifelong friends, the two platonic friends take this game into adulthood, continuously daring each other to perform feats meant to either embarrass the other or put the other into harm's way. Although the two have never been anything more than friends, on occasion, there are moments where the two look like they could be more, although it becomes apparent that the game that keeps them together is also the one that keeps them apart, mostly because they get more enjoyment out of humiliating one another than they do in just learning to love without condition.
Although billed as a lighthearted romantic comedy, I am a bit hard-pressed to find anything within the confines of Love Me If You Dare that hearkens to genuine heartfelt emotions or even to tickling the funny bone. There is a brilliant sense of visuals employed from first-time writer-director Yann Samuell, but the entire vibe smacks of plagiarism from its much more inspired brethren, Amelie. Beautiful music sweeps in and out, kisses in the rain, gorgeous animations, and lush cinematography -- they all give the film the appearance of a gentle, whimsical, fantastical romance. Yet, at its very core, there is an underlying sense of repulsion from the lack of admirable traits among the petulant lead characters that make them so difficult to feel anything genuinely warm for.
By the end of the film, I was actually audibly cheering whenever something bad would transpire to one of the main characters, and if they both ended up getting killed, that would have probably made the movie all the more palatable. Just when I think I'm going to get my wish, Samuell trots out a beguiling ending that almost smacks of an attempt at a tacked-on audience pleasing finale, although I can't be altogether sure what the intent really was, because I can't imagine anything more pleasing than seeing the two would-be lovebirds dare each other out of existence. From a sophisticated French film sense, the bells and whistles employed to try to make this story lovely would definitely have worked if only the sense of morality and outright human decency weren't rotten to the core. No tin can for me, thanks -- I guess I'm not "game" enough to do what the title dares me to.
©2005 Vince Leo