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Monday, July 14, 2014

(Review) MOOD INDIGO: A Fantastical Romance that Suffers from a Stale Story and Tedious Visuals



There is a such thing as being too visually busy. And I think Michel Gondry's new romantic fantasy, MOOD INDIGO, is just that. It's a mildly interesting romance portrayed by two solid actors that is largely overshadowed by its gimmicky effects. Which is a shame because Gondry brought us the far more engaging modern classic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The trouble with MOOD INDIGO is fairly simple; the film aims to mask a weak story with smoke screen visuals that don't add anything to the film. And what's even worse, it underestimates its audience by pretending to be anything else. Audrey Tautou plays Chloé, a lovely young woman whose character profile remains pretty bare throughout much of the film. What we know of her is through the eyes of Colin (Romain Duris), a hopeless romantic who's trying to point Cupid's arrow in his direction. With the encouragement of his loyal chef, Nicolas (Omar Sy), he sets out in search of a beloved--which is when he meets Chloé. But during this romantic rendezvous--enhanced by the couple's appreciation for Duke Ellington tunes--each scene is accompanied by peculiar animation designed to make each scene come alive. Instead, all it does is distract the audience. Minor scenes like Nicolas cooking up a nice meal for Colin and his friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh) is interrupted by a recurring shtick that involves him chasing a runaway alarm clock that he eventually smashes into little pieces that scatter away like little rodents, then it puts itself back together as a clock. Or Colin's "pianocktail," his booze-creating instrument  to which he goes for solace. It sounds more creative than it is, but it's just child's play from a filmmaker who's capable of so much more.

On the positive side, Tautou is her typically charming self, playing as a woman whose spirit comes alive just as she learns she's dying--due to a mysterious mysterious flower growing in her lungs (of course). Tautou plays Chloé with more nuance than expected, given the thin character development, and ultimately creates the story's most interesting arc. Chloé is at first amiable and alluring, then eventually becomes a satisfying yet embittered woman fraught with an impairment that keeps her refined to a bed. In the meantime, Colin desperately tries to keep Chloé in his life, even if it means going bankrupt with medical bills. The last few scenes of the movie are darker and more affective to watch, but it is still burdened by the pedestrian effects that never cease to pop up when you never want them.

Though MOOD INDIGO has a few decadent scenes, it falters in execution and is never truly engrossing. While some of Gondry's signature elements are there, like quirky dialogue, it remains a hollow romantic tale that is neither fantastical nor particularly interesting. Colin and Chloé come off as mere blips swallowed by the delirious scenery. Very disappointing.

Rating: C- (** out of *****)

MOOD INDIGO opens in select theaters July 18th.

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