Avenue Montaigne is one of Paris' most luxurious stretches, where the uber-rich, uber-talented and uber-beautiful live, work and play.
Director Daniele Thompson sets her eponymous, Cesar-nominated comedy in this world, following a cross-section of its denizens through their misanthropic lives. A young, naive yet ambitious provincial-girl attempting to work her way into the clique via a local bistro serves as the focal point around whom all of the players revolve, allowing the rich and famous a reassuring, anonymous face to voice their woes. By using such a conceit, Thompson creates a Woody Allen/Robert Altman à la francaise vibe, weaving the stories of a successful concert pianist tired of playing for the bourgeoisie masses, a middle-aged TV soap star yearning to be taken seriously for her craft and a wealthy, aging art dealer liquidating his entire life's collection of priceless treasures into one tight, pastry-light feel-good package. A bright cameo by director Sydney Pollack, as himself, brings an additional international flair. However, for all of their quirks and foibles, it's hard to sympathize with some of their whiny existential dilemmas, much like a Woody Allen film. And much like Allen's treatment of New York, Thompson captures Paris in all of its charm and beauty. Even in scenes full of rainfall, the City of Lights shines perfectly. (PM) Grade: B