Landing on American shores, just as the United States is emerging from one of the coldest winter spells in quite some time, is the lightly warming French inflight romantic fluff “Amour & Turbulences,” now retitled “Love Is in the Air.” Although it’s based on a screenplay by American actor-screenwriter Vincent Angell, has a handful of English-lyric standards on the soundtrack, and starts with a New York moment, it’s been hobbled into a by-the numbers rom-com by director Alexandre Castagnetti and a handful of others. By the time the end credits start to roll, you’re comfortably satisfied, but never full.
As the film dashes out of its 5 AM wake-up call, we follow blonde wannabe artist Julie as she plucks a handful of post-it note reminders and prepares to depart New York City on a flight heading home to Paris. Meanwhile, disheveled womanizer Antoine awakens to a splitting headache, a pair of handcuffs around one of his wrists, and a tattooed redhead in bed next to him (and someone else on the couch). He’s got a job interview in France. Soon they’re boarding the same flight, seated next to each other in business class. As for the couple, it’s not love at first sight, because the turbulence that will extend over the film’s 96-minute length belongs to their romance and breakup 3 years earlier (as you and the nearby passengers share their backstory in various flashbacks). This is the first, but not the last, moment of coincidental scripting which afflicts the film.
Antoine notes: “This is going to be grim.”
I think he means the flight, as the expected bickering arrives in kibbles and bits once they buckle up. Both are delusional about their past together. So they continue the charade. She thinks her art is getting a wider audience. He says he’s in a serious relationship, with an American actress named Pearl. She says she’s pregnant. And, truthfully, she’s engaged to Franck (Arnaud Ducret) an attorney, with their marriage just a few days away.
Alexandre Castagnetti’s frolicsome direction works up to a point. Or counterpoint, as he likes to do when refuting, with quick-cutting or split-screen sequences, the lies and expository that flow forth from our leads, engagingly played in Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks fashion by Ludivine Sagnier and Nicolas Bedos. Sagnier rose to prominence in the U.S. with “Swimming Pool,” a 2003 thriller in which she played a sexually liberated youngster, also called Julie. She was then cast as Tinkerbell in P.J. Hogan’s lame “Peter Pan” reboot. Bedos was featured in the spry romantic comedy “Populaire” that the Weinstein Company released to American audiences last Spring.
The story, pleasant at times, brings in some supporting characters to grow subplots. Retiring to coach for an empty seat, Antoine calls up sad sack Hugo (Jonathan Cohen), his best buddy. Back in business class, Julie seeks comfort with a phone conversation with her ever intrusive mother, a brash divorcée. Soon, battle plans are afoot that will play out during the flight’s remaining six hours.
The pair’s first-meet recollection, in a men’s bathroom at an art exhibition before segueing to a night-time visit to the Eiffel Tower, is sweetly cute and, naturally, reminiscent of the Empire State Building scene in “Sleepless in Seattle.” It also finds a fellow passenger whimsically crashing the memory when it’s time to bring it back to the plane. Their first kiss shot is a swirling, take-it-off, movement that invisibly moves from outside Notre-Dame to the bedroom in just a half dozen 360° turns, while the soundtrack playfully showcases the Harry Warren-Mack Gordon favorite “The More I See You, the More I Want You,” before moving back to those techie shots to show their relationship’s development. No doubt the half-dozen hand-drawn images from the Kama-sutra that stray across the screen were meant to imply it was quite a healthy relationship.
Petty jealousies and insecurities abound in the flashbacks, as does the couple’s charming ability to make us believe their relationship will work despite their incompatibilities, his exes (oh, the many exes), his scumbag antics, their rough misunderstandings, and more than a few f**k-ups amongst them and the supporting cast. One of those melding/melting moments is at a nightclub, when Julie pushes Antoine to play the piano with a jazz group, only to scorn at the adoring ladies nearby, starring at him in naked admiration.
Sure it’s talky (doubly-so, with the English subtitles), but there’s a charm in watching Antoine and Julie finagle their way back into one another’s lives as the films flies towards its totally daft ending. It might not be worth the effort to catch this at your local art house, but its accelerated VOD window is a short one. You can catch it at home or on your next flight to Paris.