There are so many appealing elements involved in the film "A French Gigolo" (also known as "Cliente") that I'm a bit conflicted. While I enjoyed this puff pastry, I thought its uneven tone was off-putting. Somewhere between a ribald comedy and a drama of emotional resonance and consequence, the film never really combines its disparate themes into a cohesive picture. It's a shame, really, this had the potential to be challenging and thought provoking or hysterically funny--but, by riding the middle ground, it simply becomes a fairly amusing trifle. Were it not for stars Nathalie Baye and Eric Caravaca, I might have been tempted to dismiss this altogether. The two, however, are quite engaging and extremely likable and, in the end, they sell the film by providing a pleasing charm.
Baye plays a home shopping network host who has been burned in past relationships so relies on paid entanglements for her physical needs. Caravaca is one such paid escort. Married and supporting his wife's family, he got into the business for strictly monetary reasons. They are intrigued by one another, extend their professional relationship, and sometimes start blurring the lines. Every character must face what he/she really wants and needs from this affair before the day is over--and everyone wants it on their own terms. Baye wants the freedom of a paid escort with the intimacy of a real relationship. Caravaca wants the experience with Baye but also loves his wife. And his wife wants him not to see Baye but relishes the financial side of the relationship. There are a lot of moral and emotional dilemmas to be sorted through, but the film has maintained such a frothy tone--I never really connected with moments of heartfelt drama. It seems that the film endorses everyone's position and conflict in a politely accepting form.
In the end, I'm not particularly sure anyone has learned anything. But it's been a pleasant trip for the viewer. Some moments of comedy work quite well--a lot at the studio is well observed and amusing. But some things are simply ridiculous and distracting. I pretty much hated the film's soundtrack. Opening the film with a bad ballad from the eighties didn't seem prudent--but the gigolo rap (surely meant for irony or at least slapstick comic appeal) is absolutely dreadful and highlights exactly my point about the film's unevenness. If you like lightweight French films or are a fan of Baye (and really, why wouldn't you be?), I'd still recommend the film. Also of note, if you are checking this out for saucy and sexy fare due to the title--this is tame and mild by sex and nudity standards. Pleasing, but forgettable. KGHarris 2/11.