Filmmaker Attal shows promise in debut ‘My Wife is an Actress’

The French comedy, “My Wife is an Actress,” is not a movie that I would typically go to see. It had subtitles. It was funny and clever. Normally, I am really more the type to see Britney Spears’ movie “Crossroads” than “My Wife is an Actress.” Yet I discovered that in my immersion in all the regular pop culture, I have been missing out on some interesting foreign films.

Based on a novel by the film’s director, Yvan Attal, the film deals with the complexities of the relationship between Yvan, a sports writer (played by Attal himself), and his famous actress wife, Charlotte (played by Charlotte Gainsburg). In France, she is a star of Gwyneth Paltrow’s stature, whereas he is a mere mortal. They live together in an apartment in Paris, dealing with the trials and tribulations of her stardom and the lifestyle that accompanies it.

“My Wife is an Actress” is nearly autobiographical, written by, starring and directed by Attal. In real life, Attal is married to Gainsburg, who is really popular in France. She is thought of as superlatively hot by young men on the streets of Paris, or so I’ve been told. The real-life married duo work beautifully together on screen.

Attal has this John Cusack, quirky-regular-guy thing going on which made him attractive as a main character. He is human enough that the audience understands and forgives him for all of his many faults.

Charlotte is also a charming character who we never get to figure out completely. However, through all of her fame she remains a likeable character. She is beautiful without being a typical Hollywood bombshell knock-out, which I found intriguing.

Yvan’s major problem with Charlotte’s career is his jealousy. He regularly questions her faithfulness. He is frustrated about the little things that come with stardom, like the constant autographs, and that her name alone can get them a reservation at exclusive restaurants while his can’t get them a cab.

There are some really hysterical moments in the film, including one where Yvan, at the height of his jealous rage, walks on to the set of his wife’s movie and finds the entire cast and crew naked. Times get harder for them when she goes to London to film her new movie. The audience gets a break from subtitles while the characters have a break in their relationship.

The film can be hard to watch at times. There are points were the characters are so oblivious, the audience wishes they could yell at the screen. It reminded me of the moments in “Saved By the Bell” when Mr. Belding was just around the corner waiting to catch Zack up to no good, when you just wanted to jump into the show and make Zack aware of the awful trouble he is about to walk into. In “My Wife is an Actress,” this feeling was a common experience.

The directorial aspect of the film was done well, in particular because it was Attal’s debut. It was easy tell that he wasn’t particularly experienced in some shots, yet in others the audience could appreciate the fresh perspective. Camera angles were consistently unpredictable and interesting.

“My Wife is an Actress” feels like a blend of the best aspects of several quirky but quality recent movies. It is “High Fidelity” meets “Office Space” while having an affair with “Clerks.” It is chock-full of clever banter and the occasional physical comedy stunt, together creating a high quality film.