‘A comedy about people who are suffering’, is how director and co-writer Danièle Thompson describes Orchestra Seats. In fact, this predictable slice of middlebrow entertainment resembles a Gallic Love Actually.
Set in and around Paris’ prestigious Avenue Montaigne, the film consists of a trio of intersecting storylines, with bubbly waitress Jessica (Cécile De France), a new arrival from the provinces, acting as the audience’s guide to this world of luxury. Meanwhile, a famous female TV star (Valerie Lemercier) is rehearsing a Feydeau farce, whilst dreaming of landing a serious film role. In the adjoining concert hall a renowned pianist (Albert Dupontel) yearns for a less structured and pressurised existence. And at the next door auction-room, a dying art-collector (Claude Brasseur) is preparing to sell off his life’s work and patch up his relationship with his academic son (Christopher Thompson).
Everyone is at a crossroads, in other words, whether personal or professional, and one’s enjoyment of this glossily photographed confection will depend on your pain threshold for smug multiple character comedies. Despite some enjoyable ensemble performances, including Sydney Pollack’s cameo as an American director attempting to cast a Sartre and de Beauvoir biopic, the contrivances and the clichés in the screenplay prove irksome.