A Delicacy to avoid
Typically, only the best foreign-language films secure distribution outside their own borders. However, a star with international appeal can take a film further than it may otherwise deserve to go. And so Audrey Tautou returns to her familiar rom-com territory in the Foenkinos brothers feature debut Delicacy (or La délicatesse). Unfortunately, she checks her trademark charm and charisma at the door as she trudges through a joyless deluge of awkward and dreadfully unfunny moments which comprise this dreary, pointless outing that should have been banned from crossing French borders.
Delicacy is a family project, adapted from David Foenkinos’ (who also co-directs here with his brother Stéphane) novel and the lack of outside influence shows. It would be a minor spoiler to mention that Tautou plays Nathalie, a recently widowed wife, as when the films her partner is very much alive. However, as the film breezes through their courtship and eventual marriage, it does so without creating any significant connection between Nathalie and François (Pio Marmai) that the viewer can become emotionally invested in. So once François is struck down and Nathalie retreats into a life devoted to work and mourning, there is little reason to particularly care about what slowly unfolds. Skipping ahead three years, Nathalie (looking no worse for wear) has secured a promotion and is left to fend off advances from her lecherous boss. Exactly what he sees in her is a mystery as Tautou’s character is defined by grief and little else. When Delicacy randomly brings goofy Swede Markus (François Damiens) into the picture as Nathalie’s sudden suitor it’s as if the plot has been sideswiped by this new character. It becomes increasingly clear that character development and introductions are not David Koenkinos’ strong points.
There’s no point in dancing around the fact that Delicacy is a dire film and viewing experience. With lifeless characters and a plot that amounts to little more than to how shocked the supporting characters are that beautiful, but oh so sad Amélie could possibly be interested in the Shrek-like Swede, anyone surviving the runtime (that feels at least twice as long) deserves a medal. The horrid source material is done no favours by the cast. The only way Tautou could appear any less interested would be in a meta-Delicacy where the audience watches Nathalie as she watches this film. Meanwhile, Damiens seems to be in a different film altogether, as his cartoonish portrayal is firmly at odds with every other aspect of Delicacy. Worst of all is that despite (or perhaps because of) his best efforts to show how Nathalie could be won over by Markus, there is nothing remotely likable about him (though points may be awarded for how pathetic he seems). Markus is completely out of his element throughout and what she seems in him is just as baffling as what anyone would see in her or Delicacy for that matter. Perhaps, Tautou and Damiens were resigned to how futile it would be to attempt to overcome the failures of the script. However, the end result is a shared responsibility for how flat-out bad Delicacy is. The lone redeeming factor is that the film is competently shot, but that matters little when there is nothing onscreen worth watching.
By all rights, Delicacy should mark the end of English speakers’ love affair with Tautou. She has done precious little to maintain the esteem gained from Amélie and if her sleep-walking through this turgid waste of time isn’t the final nail in the coffin, nothing will be. Equally, based on this appalling debut one can hope that this will be the last time that any Foenkinos brothers’ film reaches these shores. This is one Delicacy to be fed to the dogs. 2/10