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By David Finkelstein | October 26, 1998

This movie pissed me off! It was so good right up until the last shot. Then it blew it. Screwed up. Dropped the ball. Choked. Tanked. Gee, ya suppose I didn’t like the ending?
Paco’s a hunky – or at least what those kooky French consider “hunky” – shoe salesman who picks up Nino, a diminutive hitchhiker and full-time wanderer. When Nino, who resembles a “Route 66”-era Bob Dylan, steals Paco’s car, the downcast salesman hitches a ride with the beautiful Marinette. It’s the start of the proverbial beautiful relationship.
When Paco (too-coincidentally) later spots Nino, he beats him up, but then feels bad about it and visits him in the hospital where they strike up a friendship. Marinette then asks Paco for three weeks apart to “make sure their relationship is for real,” (women!) so Nino convinces Paco to join him on the road.
Here, the film drifts into an aimless Gallic buddy/road movie, with most of that travel time spent trying to get the romantically-challenged Nino laid. Our pal Paco doesn’t have this problem, however, because while he swears he loves Marinette, he just can’t help “screwing up” whenever a fair damsel’s bosoms beckon.
Director Manuel Poirier’s ’97 Cannes Grand Jury winner is a charming and – dare I use this word in a FT review? – delightful road movie. In fact, the breathtaking French vistas seen from those roads are one of this film’s highlights.
But I’m still ticked. The luckless Nino finally finds his dream woman and we’re breathlessly wondering what will become of the philandering Paco and his beloved Marinette. What we get is a glib cop-out ending and a sickening “That’s it?” reaction when the credits roll.
Go see “Western” because the first 98% is sly, endearing, and clever fun. As for the ending, do what you did for “Aliens III and/or IV”: just pretend it never happened.

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