Film Review: 4 Days in France

How could a French sex farce fueled by Grindr be so dull and, well, unsexy?
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The promise of a French screen farce driven by Grindr, the now beyond-notorious sex-hookup phone app, would seem to be enough to have anyone’s appetite for the salacious piqued, and then some. Traditionally, and in cinema particularly, who but the French have had the inexhaustible knack for combining sexiness with humor, plus generous dollops of romantic sagacity?

Well, quel disappointment, for Jerome Reybaud’s 140-minute, seemingly endless talkfest is about as sexy as your grandma’s shoes, more droll than funny (a world of difference there) and its basic Gallic philosophy of l’amour, whether base or elevated, seems not all that removed from that infernal Disney ride with those international moppet puppets endlessly chirping, “It’s a Small World After All.”

It begins with Parisian Pierre (Pascal Cervo) sneaking out of the Paris apartment he shares with his sleeping boyfriend Paul (Arthur Igual) to go on a solo road trip in his Alfa Romeo, his direction determined by the locations of the various men he hooks up with via his cellphone, or gay cruising areas located on the Internet. Paul awakes and realize what has gone down and sets off in hot pursuit, shrewdly manipulating the Grindr app to locate his Lothario with the gypsy feet. This is surely a new meaning of the word “picaresque,” and oh, the non-hilarity which ensues! Much of the film is taken up with the various characters the men encounter along their way, and although to call the French a colorful race would usually seem to be an understatement, it is downright astonishing how boring most of these encounters are. Many of them are with old women, like PIerre’s flamboyant aunt (Judith Joubert), who like that other famous movie aunt, Mame, urges him to “live, live, live,” as it probably is his last chance to do so. Then there’s the tres sympa chanteuse on her way to croon at a senior citizens’ residence, not forgetting the irate biddy who, fed up with the licentious behavior in her cruisy neighborhood, screams at Paul about his kind polluting the Earth.

All of this seasoned mostly with friendly estrogen, while cozy, is neither very exciting nor sexy, given the film’s provocative premise. The percentage of actually satisfying erotic encounters here—none presented very graphically, by the way—is very low, prompting one to wonder if there may be, despite the film’s supposed total lack of judgment, a subtle moralizing plea for monogamy going on here. To really make it work, Reybaud needed truly charismatic actors who would be fine, never-boring company on this extended drive. While Igual has an appealng natural gravitas and vulpine handsomeness, most of the film concerns itself with Cervo, whose baby-faced blandness resembles a French version of Charlie Brown. Before long, instead of a dashing romantic wayfarer, he comes across as a passive onlooker, a little too game for whatever weirdness anyone throws at him. The basic lack of anything exciting in him sadly reflects this film itself.

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