In Albert Dupontel’s madcap comedy 9 Month Stretch, Ariane Felder (Sandrine Kiberlain) is a 40 year-old woman who is committed to her job and…well nothing else. Working 10 to 15 hour days, she has little time for silly things like friends or relationships. Really, who needs love when you are on the fast track to becoming one of the prestigious Court of Appeal judges? Plus she can always quell any sexual urges by making time to practice her ballet. Though she has gained a reputation for being an intelligent and fiercely tough judge, Ariane is socially awkward at the best of times. In fact she has problems letting loose even when the party comes to her.
While working during an office New Year’s Eve party, taking place at the courthouse of all places, her colleagues storm Ariane’s office demanding to see her have a bit of fun. Like bullies on the playground they pressure Ariane into taking one drink to welcome in the New Year. One drink turns into several and soon Ariane loses all recollection of her wild drunken antics. However, she gets an abrupt reminder six months later when she discovers that she is pregnant.
Things get further complicated for Ariane when a DNA test confirms that the father of the child is none other than Robert Nolan (Albert Dupontel), a thief who is wanted for murder! Far from the sharpest tool in the shed, Robert is accused of not only killing the elderly man whose home he broke into, but eating the man’s eyes as well. Realizing that Ariane is the woman he had a fling with months ago, Robert breaks out of prison hoping she can help prove his innocence.
This all sets the stage for an odd couple type screwball comedy that hits several familiar tropes. Despite the brisk whimsical pacing, which at times is reminiscent of the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Stephen Chow, 9 Month Stretch feels more like a sitcom pilot than a fully realized film. This is not to say that the film does not offer it share of laughs. There are several solid laugh-out-loud moments throughout, including two blink and you will miss it cameos by Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin. However, Dupontel’s film relies a little too heavily on Kiberlain’s facial gestures, and the forced slapstick blunders, to generate the bulk of the laughs.
While Kiberlain has a great physical comedy presence, it is a bit surprising that she won a Best Actress César award, think the French equivalent of the Best Actress Oscars, for her work in the film. Especially considering how little depth there is to her character and the life altering decisions she must make. Unfortunately, the lack of overall substance really hinders the film. The plot is so lazily slapped together, as evident by how swiftly everything wraps up, that we never truly feel invested in any of the characters and the film as a whole.
Friday, April 4, 8:15 pm, The Royal