Russian Dolls is the second film in Cédric Klapisch’s trilogy about writer Xavier (Romain Duris) and his multinational assortment of friends, set several years after the events of the first film Pot Luck (which is also known by all manner of alternative titles). This time round Xavier is back in his native Paris, pushing 30 and working as a ghostwriter on celebrity autobiographies and pulp romances. When he’s not musing about love he’s sleeping around and being rather indicisive about the numerous possible relationships that present themselves to him simultaneously (oh to have the problems of a good-looking male lead in a French demi-farce). His romance with Martine (Audrey Tautou) has ended – she has had a child with another man and is raising the boy alone – but the pair remain on good terms. Does the flame still flicker or are they growing further apart as the years progress? Not one to hang around in order to find out, Xavier begins an unlikely affair with English model Celia (the late Lucy Gordon), but her taste for the high life surely means they are incompatible. Then there’s fellow writer and old pal from Barcelona Wendy (Kelly Reilly), who Xavier bumps into in Paris before they begin collaborating on a TV script in London; there’s clearly a mutual attraction, but complicating matters is the presence of Wendy’s boorish, bullying on-off boyfriend, played by Gary Love. Xavier also regularly sees, and eventually moves in with, former roommate Isabelle (played less convincingly this time round by Cécile de France); she is the character that he has been most intimite and open with during the course of the two films, and you get the impression that he is secretly in love with her, despite the fact it will never amount to anything — she’s a lesbian.
The film only really gets going around the thirty or forty minute mark, when the action begins to move back and forth between Paris and London, with Klapisch playfully including cutaways of Eurostar trains travelling hither and thither at great speed. Gradually the other Paris-based characters are sidelined and the film becomes a more straightforward ‘will-they-won’t-they’ Anglo-French love story, focusing on the burgeoning romance between Wendy and Xavier. Yet the film’s opening flash-forward places those two, Isabelle and the rest of the main characters from Pot Luck in St. Petersburg. Eventually Klapisch settles on the Russian city for a reunion, but it arrives far too late, meaning that at least four characters get a paltry amount of screen time (and with a couple of lines each it’s no wonder the actors in question look disgruntled). The group gathers for the marriage of Wendy’s irritating brother William (Kevin Bishop), who is given a sickeningly-sweet love story of his own this time round, to Russian ballet dancer Natasha (Evgenia Obraztsova). The alcohol-fuelled wedding breakfast provides some laughs, but sadly it’s too little too late. I quite like Klapisch’s breezy, light touch in this series, and it’s a good ensemble performance, but it takes an age for this film to find its feet and far too much time is spent going round in circles in Paris. The director’s penchant for unnecessary visual effects continues unabashed, but I’m still interested enough in the characters to finish the trilogy. The editing by Francine Sandberg is zippy and fun.
Directed by: Cédric Klapisch.
Written by: Cédric Klapisch.
Starring: Romain Duris, Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou, Cécile de France, Kevin Bishop, .
Cinematography: Domininque Colon.
Editing: Francine Sandberg.
Music: Laurent Levesque, Loïk Dury.
Running Time: 125 minutes.