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Friday, March 23, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"Avenue Montaigne" | A French Alice in Wonderland

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"Avenue Montaigne," with Ccile de France, Valrie Lemercier, Claude Brasseur, Albert Dupontel, Laura Morante, Sydney Pollack, Dani, Christopher Thompson. Directed by Danile Thompson, from a screenplay by Danile Thompson and Christopher Thompson.

100 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some strong language and brief sexuality. In French with English subtitles. Harvard Exit.

Cécile de France, a blond gamine who's endearingly squeaky of voice and spiky of hair, provides the center around which the other characters revolve in "Avenue Montaigne." Danièle Thompson's romantic comedy features de France as the waitress Jessica, a young woman from the country whose new job in the theater district brings her into the lives of a famous actress (Valérie Lemercier), a concert pianist (Albert Dupontel), an art collector (Claude Brasseur), a soon-to-retire theater concierge (Dani) and a Hollywood director (Sydney Pollack). She's dazzled; a sweet-natured Alice in a very sophisticated Wonderland.

Thompson, who co-wrote the film with her son Christopher (who's also in "Avenue Montaigne," as the art collector's son), has a knack for pretty, sweet-natured ensemble pieces. ("La Bûche," her warmhearted 2001 holiday film, was also written with Christopher.) The tree-lined street from which the movie gets its title (though its French title is "Orchestra Seats") is photographed lovingly; a gray-hued early-morning shot of the Eiffel Tower may well inspire a trip abroad. And the characters are all, in their different ways, ultimately charming; you wish for each a storybook happy ending.

Feather-light, "Avenue Montaigne" is lifted from mere pleasantness by its quirky character details: The high-strung actress has the BeeGees' "Night Fever" as her cellphone ringtone; the concierge perpetually sings and dances around the deserted theater, starring in a performance only she can see. And, through Jessica's eyes, we, too, can be dazzled by the film's presentation of the richness of lives lived in art.

"I'm a musician," the pianist introduces himself to Jessica's visiting grandmother. "You're a lucky man," she replies.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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