Making Plans for Lena

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Ratings (out of five): ** 1/2

Making Plans for Lena is writer/director Christophe Honoré's third film to use Chiara Mastroianni, but it comes nowhere near the level of his earlier Love Songs. I find myself running hot and luke-warm to the work of this filmmaker; his latest is definitely in the latter category. Beautifully filmed in Brittany, the movie -- as well as the Lena character played by Mastroianni -- fairly reeks of entitlement.

After a time, it is extremely difficult to watch Lena in action without wanting to haul off and smack the woman, as her behavior toward everyone around her grows more appalling as the movie progresses. Could Honoré and Mastroianni be unaware of this? Is their film some kind of feminist statement? Embarrassing, if true. Women -- feminism -- need better agitators and explicators than are found here. But maybe that's just movie folk for you: They tackle life from, shall we say, a somewhat privileged position and expect to be congratulated for their efforts.

There is no plot to speak of in the movie – just various characters and their given situation (a pregnancy here, a dissolution of a marriage there) – and Lena’s reactions to it all. It’s simply one of those French “family dynamics” films (A Christmas Tale, Un Air de Famille), and among the lesser examples of the genre, at that. On the plus side in this French family dram-com is a cast filled with fine French actors -- from Marina Foïs to Jean-Marc Barr, Marcial di Fonzo Bo and especially Marie-Christine Barrault (as the family's overbearing but dedicated mom). What a pleasure to see this great old actress in a good role again! Even that Honoré staple Louis Garrel makes a short appearance, proving himself sexy and watchable, as always.

making-plans-for-lena-louis-garrel

It's odd how differently we all react to watching the same thing. Stephen Holden, in his NY Times review found the odd section that tells (and shows) a folk take -- about a local bride, the villagers and dancing -- a kind of interruption that brings the film to a dead halt. I found it much more pleasurable, if not completely comprehensible. At least it took us away from the ridiculous Lena -- a character Holden found more interesting and worthwhile than did I.

Fans of Chiara Mastroianni, Honoré and the rest of his fine ensemble will certainly want to see the film, as did I prior to its theatrical run when the movie made its American debut in March 2010. You couldn't have kept me from it then, so maybe my somewhat “warning” review should not keep you from it, either, now that it has appeared on DVD (after nearly a two-year wait).

The DVD, released by Zeitgeist Films Ltd, comes with the theatrical trailer and no other special features. 

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