Bon Voyage (PG-13) (105 min.) - Hollywood invented screwball comedy, but the genre has been openly defiled in recent years; the dreadfully unfunny Laws of Attraction is only one recent example. Across the pond, though, the form is alive and kicking, at least in the hands of filmmaker Jean-Paul Rappeneau, best known for The Horseman on the Roof (1995) and Cyrano de Bergerac (1990).
For Bon Voyage, which has the French director reuniting with screen veteran Gerard Depardieu (Cyrano), Rappeneau boldly gives a cleverly executed comic spin to a dark, distinctly unfunny period in his country's history: the summer of 1940.
The action centers on the romantic entanglements of Viviane (Isabelle Adjani), a glamorous, hilariously self-centered matinee idol. She has perfected the art of using men: Her latest boyfriend, Minister of Justice Beaufort (Depardieu), provides entree to a powerful inner circle, while handsome old flame Frederic (Gregori Derangere) offers something like true affection and sometime lover Alex (Peter Coyote), a reporter with a dark side, holds out the promise of intriguing liaisons.
Adjani, perfectly cast, plays her scenes appropriately broadly, fluttering her eyelashes and turning to mush when Viviane needs to enlist the help of one of her suitors. Strings - big, lush, romantic - swell when she pours it on.
As the Nazis approach Paris in the summer of 1940, the city's political and social elite relocate to Bordeaux, and plot complications are amplified. Frederic, a prison escapee (he took the rap for a crime he didn't commit), again crosses paths with Viviane. The two variously contend with Beaufort; a brilliant Jewish physicist (Jean-Marc Stehle) and his pretty assistant, Camille (Virginie Ledoyen), both harboring nuclear secrets; Raoul (Yvan Attal), a footloose schemer in love with Camille; a German spy; Nazi killers; and the nephew of a prominent man who died while in the company of Viviane.
Rappeneau deftly allows the various plot lines to unfold at an ever-quickening pace, with maximum grace, style and wit. To his credit, he makes it all look too easy. B+