We’ll Never Have Paris
The Big Bang Theory's Simon Helberg co-writes, co-directs and stars in an undemanding, messy romcom
It’s easy to see why an undemanding romantic comedy with a bit of star wattage makes sense on paper as a festival closer, and this effort from one of the stars of the TV hit The Big Bang Theory will doubtless win some laughs from an Edinburgh Film Festival crowd predisposed to give them. In the wider world, however, strong support will be harder to source for a film that neglects the basic requirement that an audience not thoroughly hate its protagonist.
Simon Helberg, who co-wrote and co-directs with his wife Jocelyn Towne, maniacally overplays the role of Quinn, who sort of wants to propose to his long-term girlfriend Devon (Melanie Lynskey), but also wants to have sex with other women. Off flies Devon to Paris to get some space; Quinn follows her, there to invade her space, ignore her needs, insult her relatives, whine, moan, and be grotesquely racist about French people and their notoriously inferior food culture.
A protagonist with moral failings is one thing; a downright unbearable one is a narrative problem, especially as Devon, despite a warm performance by Lynskey, seems like a fool for tolerating him. There’s also weird, messy storytelling, with characters who’ve been close for years not knowing basic things about one another ('We have family there,' Devon’s mother tells Quinn, as if he wouldn’t know that his partner of ten years is half-French) and pointlessly extended asides (an eye problem, a trip to a Dutch colonial fair) that aren’t funny and add nothing.
The other girls with whom Quinn tangles (he’s amazingly magnetic for such a git) are treated with a contempt that sees their eating habits and sexual behaviour presented for our mockery, but in the end they’re the story’s winners: at least they don’t end up with him.
Reviewed at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014.