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Published February 23rd, 2007 | by Coco Forsythe

Orchestra Seats (Fauteuils D’Orchestre) Review

Classification: 12A Director: Daniele Thompson Rating: 3.5/5

Jessica (de France) has dreamed of living in Paris since she was a little girl. Her grandmother (Suzanne Flon), a former five-star hotel lavatory attendant, has filled her head with stories of second-hand luxury and glamour, and Jessica decides to try it out for herself. She arrives at the Comedie des Champs-Elysees theatre with nothing but her immensely sweet and open nature, and as luck would have it gets a job in the café across the road.

Catherine (Lemercier) is a huge tv star, popular and adored by the masses, but all she wants is to be taken seriously as an actress. By night she records her tv series, by day she rehearses a play at the theatre, stocking up on croissants and café au lait in the breaks.

Jean-Francois (Dupontel) is a gifted and successful concert pianist; so gifted and successful that he knows where he will be playing in five years’ time. His wife Valentine (Morante) loves him and admires him, and on the pretext of protecting him, micro-manages him to the point of suffocation. Jean-Francois is tired of playing music to the privileged few; he dreams of solitude and freedom, of playing for prisoners and the sick. While Jacques (Brasseur) has spent his life collecting art, spending every spare penny that he has on his collection, but now he has decided to sell the lot.

All these people, with their neuroses, issues and problems will come to the cafe on the 17th.

Orchestra Seats is a delightful comedy which will resonate with anyone who has ever had a dream, or, conversely, thought is this it? Altman-like, its ensemble cast of seemingly random characters runs the gamut from the sweet ingenue Jessica, just up from the country to the cynical but ambitious Catherine and the bitter Frederic (Thompson). Jessica is the common thread; her openness, charm and particular brand of fearless optimism inspires confidence in everyone she meets, and Pollyanna-like, she sprinkles a little fairy dust on them all. Though she is wowed by everything, she isn’t awed, and she is very refreshing and a simply lovely character.

The film makes some nice points about success; its not enough, or its enough but not the right kind. Catherine makes millions, but she wants credibility; she’s desperate to meet with an American director (Pollack, in an amusing cameo) who is casting in Paris; Jean-Francois wants to escape all the trappings of his existence, the interviews, the touring, the predictability. It seems horribly ungrateful, but it’s also understandable and even funny. Be careful what you wish for indeed; these characters are the envy of others, yet they feel that life has passed them by, that in some way they have failed. Jessica helps to remind them that possibilities still exist.

Beautifully directed by Daniele Thompson, Orchestra Seats is one of those films, like Amelie, that makes you want to hop on the Eurostar. Like its lead character, it’s a delight.

Related Links:

Thompson & Thompson Interview with Future Movies

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