Chinese Puzzle: Sincere & Engaging Comedy-Drama
Audrey TautouCécile De France...
Set in the bustling streets of New York City – Chinatown mainly – Cedric Klapisch’s latest entry reunites the cast from his previous two films – the 2002’s L’Auberge Espagnole and the 2005’s Russian Dolls – in the outlandish and the delightfully charming comedy-drama, Chinese Puzzle, a.k.a Casse-Tete-Chinois.
Chinese Puzzle begins in Paris with the soon-to-turn-forty year-old novelist, Xavier Rousseau (Durais), wondering about how his life has turned out. Convinced that his life is too complicated for words, Xavier soon receives the shock of his life when his long-time British girlfriend – and the mother of his two children – Wendy (Reilly) announces that she will be moving back to Manhattan to move in with another man and, to top things off, she will also be taking their children with her.
Shocked, but not at all surprised, Xavier soon decides that he too will move to the Big Apple in order to be close to his children. There, he moves in with his best-pal, Isabelle (De France) – whom he helped impregnate so she could raise the child with her girlfriend, Ju (Holt).
Finding his footing and settling in the big city is not as easy as he had initially hoped, but Xavier is soon drawn in by the city’s charm and decides to stay. In order to do so, he must find an American wife; things get even more complicated for the talented writer when his ex-girlfriend, Martine (Tautou), announces that she too is coming over for a visit.
Complex relationships and the intricacy of parenting are the story’s running themes and subjects and Klapisch manages to skilfully explore them all in a very sincere manner. Viewers shouldn’t be concerned if they’ve missed the director’s preceding two films; there is a short recap on the previous events played out in the very beginning. New York is where most of the story is played out and just like other films that use this wonderful city as its backdrop, it is almost portrayed as character in itself, whose hypnotic presence is felt throughout.
Confident and with an air of social awkwardness, Durais makes for an extremely likable lead. Instinctively relaxed and laid-back, he is instantly relatable as man who is quiet and charming in his exasperation as a man whose existence is, by and large, dictated by the women in his life. Said women – especially De France as the rebellious best-friend and Jun Li as the up-beat, all-game new American wife – all do wonderful jobs in their supporting roles.
Though it is officially part of a trilogy, Chinese Puzzle is more than capable of standing out on its own. Free-spirited, wonderfully shot and driven with Christophe Minck’s pumping soundtrack, it’s very hard to imagine someone walking away from this without a smile.