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By Merle Bertrand | January 30, 2002

Alex (David La Haye) is a lady’s man almost in spite of himself. Granted, he’s a globe-girdling photographer, which always seems to attract those of the fair sex, and he’s a gently charismatic romantic to boot. But, truth be told, he’s also a bit of a dork. Which means that while this good natured charmer finds it relatively easy to meet women, he has a bit more of a problem figuring out what to do with them once he has them.
Here’s a guy who got married, only to up and leave his wife with no explanation. Now back in Montreal to open a new art exhibit after nearly dying on an underwater photo shoot, Alex quickly meets and falls for snobbish film critic Marie (Isabelle Blais)…while lusting after her best friend Sara (Chantal Giroux)…who, in turn, is dating HIS best friend Sam (Emmanuel Bilodeau).
You might be confused, but Alex seems to be threading his way between these romantic land mines and a part-time gig as a drug runner just fine. Eventually, however, his world caves in on him; a catastrophic collusion in which each professional dilemma serves to exacerbate his unraveling personal life, thus in turn throwing his career in further disarray. When Alex needs the world to just stop and give him a time-out, we’re left to wonder if he’ll again search out that elusive peace in the dark cold depths of the sea.
Longtime director of photography Andre Turpin dons the writer/director caps as well in his goofy screwball dramedy “Soft Shell Man.” Nearly everyone in the film is as eccentric as Alex, which makes it hard to slam the guy even when he’s being a complete a*s. The film takes a while to get its sea legs under it, if you’ll pardon the expression, but once it does; once Turpin has all his players in their place, he allows the consequences of Alex’ reflexive game of ducking life’s dodge balls to finally catch up with him.
While I could easily have done without the annoying jump cuts and spastic zooms that litter this otherwise affable romp, “Soft Shell Man” maintains a surprisingly good-natured air about it, especially considering some of its darker themes. Drug abuse, infidelity and death aren’t usually comedy fare, but Turpin’s film allows us to chuckle through the angst…if only because we’re relieved that the mess left behind is Alex’ to clean up and not our own.

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