Although writer/director Lisa Azuelos’s generically titled I Love America implies a run-of-the-mill rom-com, the end result is slightly livelier than one would expect. Such a modest achievement can be attributed to its formidable lead, who does most of the heavy-lifting and radiates effortless charisma. Opting for pleasant over challenging, and breezy over insightful, Azuelos seems unsure what exactly she’s trying to say, so she speaks as genially as she can, coasting on charm.
Not that anyone would blame her for being smitten with said lead, the fabulous French acting stalwart, Sophie Marceau. Here she plays Lisa (Azuelos’s alter-ego?), a middle-aged French filmmaker with a turbulent past who, after three years of celibacy, moves to Los Angeles to start a new life. She’s greeted by best friend Luka (Djanis Bouzyani) and soon after embarks on a journey of self-discovery, which leads to the hunky, much-younger John (Colin Woodell). Love blossoms, yet problems arise when John finds out that Lisa lied about her age.
Subplots, some told via flashbacks that commence when Lisa writes her screenplay, leave much to be desired. They form the key underdeveloped element in the narrative, which spends a hefty chunk of time delving into the protagonist’s tumultuous past to reveal… what? “America always tasted like scrambled eggs, disco, and my dad,” Lisa narrates. Her womanizing father, Lisa leaving her child for a career, the multitude of disco clubs, and her relationship with her recently-deceased mother all feel tacked on and redundant. There’s no catharsis, the dramatic bits meandering aimlessly, not to mention clashing tonally, without ever forming a coherent whole.
“…problems arise when John finds out that Lisa lied about her age.”
Other moments throughout I Love America, ones that focus on the heroine’s present-day shenanigans, are more inspired. A cab driver practices his audition on Lisa. She has an impromptu encounter with a fortune-teller, who promises that she’ll be a successful director but resolutely states that she won’t meet anyone. “You’re designed for solitude,” the seer says. “But dating is okay.” The dates-gone-wrong are mildly amusing, one involving a weirdo with a cashew allergy and the other a Danish nudist.
Sophie Marceau adds much-needed class to the proceedings with her elegance and a sort of insouciance that skirts whimsy. “Straight, I suppose,” she replies when asked about her sexuality and being presented with a lengthy list of options. “When I’m sober,” she then adds. Though the focus is on Lisa’s romance with John, it’s the easy-going chemistry Marceau shares with Bouzyani, whose Luka sidesteps the “supportive gay character” tropes and develops an actual personality, that leaves the bigger impression.
“In France, we don’t have the word ‘date,'” Lisa says, “either we f**k, or we don’t.” I Love America doesn’t delve too deeply, or at all, into things like the American dream, the implications of aging in contemporary society, cultural/generational differences, or the lasting marks one’s parents leave on their offspring. As it stands, the film is a cute little love letter to the City of Angels, bound to evaporate from your mind sooner than a meal at the In-N-Out.
"…a cute little love letter to the City of Angels..."