by Carrie Specht
The Stroller Strategy is a charming French romantic comedy that plays with the idea of what happens when a baby unexpectedly enters the life of a young bachelor. Much like the 1987 American comedy, 3 Men and a Baby (which, by the way was adapted from the French hit Trois Hommes et un Couffin) the film is full of humorous situations mostly centered around the cliché that a single male is incapable of properly taking care of an infant. Cliché or not, the film manages to work regardless of the far-fetched initial set up due in large part to the incredible magnetism of French heartthrob, Raphaël Personnaz. He’s not just a handsome face but also a true talent whose screen presence is one to rival that of the hottest American stars. With good looks and cherubic charm, Personnaz is definitely one to watch.
Personnaz (who kind of looks like a younger Zach Braff) stars as single Parisian, Thomas who had a terrific girlfriend whom he fell in love with at first sight. After a brilliantly devised series of short scenes in a stairwell Thomas loses Marie, the love of his life several years later due to his inability to commit to the idea of having a family. In one of the best sequences I’ve ever seen in any movie (it’s so good it could have worked well on its own as a short film) the history of the couple’s relationship is played out beautifully in a very concise and clever way. So, it’s only fitting when this same location serves as the source of Thomas’ sudden responsibility when he is made the temporary guardian of a baby. The scenario involving a case of mistaken identity when the mother is admitted to the hospital is a bit silly and far-fetched, but it’s forgivable since Personnaz makes it work. How? By rolling his gorgeous blue eyes and taking advantage of the situation.
As it turns out, Marie (Charlotte Le Bon, a dazzlingly fetching on-screen paramour) now runs some kind of baby care facility. So, Thomas quickly gets the idea to pretend to be the father of his new charge in order to win back the girlfriend who wanted to have a child with him but left him when he showed no interest in developing their relationship. In order to prove he is ready to take the next step toward marriage and family, Thomas goes on a humorous adventure to get the girl of his dreams to believe he has changed. His only guide is his best friend Paul (Jérôme Commandeur), an ex-Tennis star on the make for woman attracted to young dads. In a comical sequence, Paul trains Thomas to walk properly with a stroller. However, Thomas soon learns he is left to his own devices and instincts when he begins to form a bound with the baby who fell into his life.
That’s when things get complicated and the dramatic situations ring true. Director Clément Michel clearly has a comedy on his hands, however he doesn’t shy away from the very real emotions of what it means to be a parent (the frustrations and the fears). Personnaz has a couple of terrific scenes where he’s challenged by the feelings he’s developed for his irresistibly charming little co-star. Yet, as heightened as some of these moments get they are evenly dispersed through out the film and don’t get in the way of the comedy, or visa versa. The comedic situations are for the most part amusing without going overboard with a few exceptions (it is a French comedy after all). One of my favorite moments is when Thomas is trying to remove little baby Leo’s onesie for the first time. Although he tugs at the garment in steady repetition causing the child to vibrate as if stuck at the end of a conveyor built, Leo just smiles as if he’s in on the gag.
The Stroller Strategy opens in Los Angeles, June 28 at Laemmle’s Music Hall on Wilshire Blvd in Beverly Hills. The hit romantic comedy runs a brisk 90 minutes in French with English subtitles. But don’t let the subtitles scare you off. With a comedy as thoroughly entertaining as this one, you’ll get caught up in the moment and forget you’re reading the dialogue in no time. Besides, it’s the silent moments between actors that really tell the story of any film. And in this case that story is a humorously touching one.