Actor-director Yvan Attal has created one of the snappier romantic comedies to come out of France in many a year. The subject is his own wife, Charlotte Gainsbourg, but it’s not a documentary. In fact, it’s quite unique.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, the daughter of legendary sleazoid crooner Serge Gainsbourg and English actress Jane Birkin, may not be very familiar to U.S. audiences, but she’s a megastar in France. And while her particular brand of beauty wouldn’t likely turn many heads on the streets of L.A., the consensus among young males in Paris is that she’s très hot. For husband Yvan (who plays a sportswriter, just to give himself an honest line of work), this is increasingly problematic. The fact that Charlotte’s name alone gets them the best table in any restaurant is little comfort. He loves his wife, sure – but does he really trust her?
In an uproarious scene that finds Yvan being interrogated by someone he barely knows about Charlotte’s love scenes, the insecurities take over. He’s off for London and all over Charlotte’s case. Complicating matters are the oily charms of Charlotte’s leading man, an aging lothario rendered with wonderful smarm by Terence Stamp. He’s trying as subtly as possible to work his way into Charlotte’s knickers, while it’s all Yvan can do to keep a lid on his explosive jealousy.
The rapport between Attal and his wife is, for obvious reasons, fascinating to watch; clearly this story is not as “fictional” as it might appear, and sometimes the truths hurt. There’s a B-story, involving the pregnancy of Yvan’s tetchy sister (Noemie Lvovsky), that’s funny at first but gradually grows repetitive. And the implication that Charlotte may have actually strayed while on location gets smoothed over in favor of a more conventionally family-friendly denouement.
Still, “My Wife is an Actress” is never less than clever and often digs down into some uncomfortable realities about the strange lives of that odd species known as “movie people.”