I enjoyed this film very much. What struck me most forcefully was how Audrey Tautou has become even more beautiful as she has aged. In the first part of the film I was worried that she was being asked to again play the part of the gamine – which I know turns many audiences off – but in later scenes she is allowed to play closer to her real age and with her hair down I find her stunningly attractive. And can anyone wear pencil skirts and glide down a corridor in heels like Audrey? Ms Tautou reminds me of the stars of the studio period. She plays close to her star persona in each role. If you don’t find that persona appealing, you’ll probably have problems with her performances as a whole.
Delicacy is supposedly a rom-com but it bears little resemblance to Hollywood romcoms. I’d describe it as more like a romantic comedy drama. Audrey is Natalie, who in the first brief section of the film is married to her dreamboat, but then quickly widowed. The narrative proper then deals with her attempt to ‘live again’ which is accomplished with the sweet Markus (nicely played by François Damiens), the bumbling but charming Swedish worker who becomes part of her office team.
Delicacy is the first feature from the brothers David and Stéphane Foenkinos. Stéphane has experience mainly as an actor and as a casting director. David has joined his brother on just a couple of projects, but his was the novel on which this screenplay is based. The novel has been extremely popular in France and in her (recommended) Sight and Sound review (May 2012), Catherine Wheatley tells us that the screenplay was written more or less with Audrey Tautou in mind and its overall tone and feel draws strongly from that sense of the quirky, the mischievous and sometimes the possibility of darkness that Audrey embodies. (I’m reminded of that minor masterpiece À la folie . . . pas du tout – He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, 2002.)
The problem for many Hollywood romcoms is that they swing between blandness and sweetness – or they react against this and deal in cruelty or crudity. Subtlety and lightness are hard to sustain. I think Delicacy manages to combine some contradictory qualities very well and that’s what makes it satisfying. Because this is a first-time effort for the brothers Foenkinos they arguably try out a range of narrative devices and some work better than others but I think that freshness and originality is to be applauded. The main issue with the film seems to be with Markus and the assumption – by other characters in the narrative and by some audiences – that he can’t be attractive. He’s balding, slightly podgy and tends to wear sweaters to work. He’s also Swedish and self-deprecating (there are some good jokes about Swedishness). None of this rules him out as a warm-blooded human being that Natalie can respond to.
As one of my friends put it, Delicacy offers a pleasant and engaging evening’s entertainment. We enjoyed it as part of our escape from the jubilee nonsense in the UK and it worked a treat.