Review: Life on 'Avenue Montaigne' tasty, if slight 

With its bistro conversations, views of the Champs-Elysees, and semi-Hollywood ending, "Avenue Montaigne" is a Parisian souffle that should appeal to Francophiles and Francophobes alike, offering the latter nothing more bothersome than the mention of Sartre.

You just wish that writer-director Daniele Thompson had included some depth along with the froth with which she superficially charms us.

Cowritten by Thompson and son Christopher Thompson, the film presents a tapestry of idealized Paris life set largely on the titular thoroughfare, where the Eiffel Tower dominates the backdrop and an assortment of arts-world personalities work and converge.


We recommend . . .

Dinner: Wood Tavern, 6317 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 654-6607; reservations accepted by phone

Movie: Avenue Montaigne, Shattuck Cinema, 2230 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510)464-5980; get tickets online at

The connective element is Jessica (Cecile de France), a young bistro waitress with gamine looks and a fresh-from-the-provinces innocence. She acts as a contagious force of sunshine as she involves herself, somewhat like a less impish Amelie, in the minidramas of the depressive and neurotic artists she serves.

Her customers include tempestuous soap-opera star Catherine (Valerie Lemercier), who hopes to land the starring role in a film that a Sydney Pollack-type director (played by Sydney Pollack) is casting. Renowned pianist Jean-Francois (Albert Dupontel) feels suffocated by the high-class concert world that his wife and manager (Laura Morante) represents.

Ailing art dealer Jacques (Claude Brasseur), whose estranged son (Christopher Thompson) becomes Jessica's love interest, is selling off his prized collection.

(Courtesy photo) Sydney Pollack plays a Sydeny Pollak-like director in "Avenue Montaigne."

This is a hard movie to dislike. Thompson has a flair for breeze and adroitly navigates her trio of plot lines, which culminate in a simultaneous occurrence of a theater premiere, a piano concert, and an art auction, each containing a genuine surprise.

Her characters are intelligent, inoffensive, and sometimes, as with retiring theater concierge Claudie (played by a husky-voiced, very French Dani), delightful.

But like Thompson's "Jet Lag," "the film doesn't take its potentially compelling characters deep enough to enable them to move or stick with us. Thompson delivers people and scenarios that tickle one's Parisian bone and prove easy on the pain receptors, but they don't amount to as much as a hill of Brie.

The performances, meanwhile, keep you caring and are nicely in sync with Thompson's brand of likability. Though Jessica develops no interesting shades as she experiences big-city challenges, De France may become the next Audrey Tautou in terms of fresh-air appeal.

Lemercier as the self-engrossed Catherine and Dupontel as the about-to-crack Jean-Francois fare splendidly, giving their characters the emotional gradations that this film could use more of.


Avenue Montaigne


Starring: Cecile de France, Valerie Lemercier, Albert Dupontel, Claude Brasseur

Written by: Daniele Thompson, Christopher Thompson

Directed by: Daniele Thompson

Rated: PG-13

Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

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