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Review: A Man Up To The Top (2016)

Directed by: | 100 minutes | , romance | Actors: Jean Dujardin, , , , François-Dominique Blin, , , , Lionel Mur, , Pascal Tantot, Myriam Tekaïa

Superficial comedy about the love struggles between lawyer Diane (Virginie Efira) and architect Alexandre (Jean Dujardin), in which his small size turns out to be the main obstacle.

When Diane comes home after a long day of work, she receives a call at home from an unknown man: he found her cell phone on a table in the restaurant where she had lunch and is now calling “Home”. There is something creepy when he immediately tells that he has read her text messages, but Diane does not seem to mind. She allows herself to be completely wrapped up in by the charming stranger, who introduces himself as Alexandre and begs for a date. When she finally agrees to meet him to get her cell phone back, she is faced with an unpleasant surprise: Alexander measures 1.36 meters, which is initially a big disappointment.

In fact, that remains a disappointment throughout the and the common thread why a relationship between the two seems to fail every time. The process of attraction, doubt, passion, hurdles that have to be overcome before the happiness of life awaits at the end: in that respect nothing new under the sun in land, any more than the outcome here is at least as predictable as the trillion predecessors in the genre.

What saves the film, however, is Jean Dujardin’s charming performance as Alexandre. The Oscar winner pulls out all the stops to conquer Diane and with his boisterous attitude to life, his twinkling eyes and his smile. Dujardin has enough charisma to make it credible. Virginie Efira then has the difficult role of playing a woman who is overcome by love – and at the same time wants to reject this love on rational grounds. The problem is that the “rational ground” of Alexandre’s height can hardly be qualified as such, precisely because it is treated in a terribly narrow and unlikable way.

That’s the big flaw of the movie. This is in fact a physical limitation of one of the protagonists and how exclusion through social conventions and deviation from ‘the norm’ can affect a person’s love life. More something for a drama, you would say, or – if you go for laughter and tears – for at least a certain psychological depth. None of that here, where it should remain “fun”. It is the step to go through the same romcom step-by-step plan and that sometimes gives a bitter taste. So don’t think too much is the motto and then it is a film that is quite enjoyable.

The humor is also superficial, the makers pretty much use the standard repertoire of jokes about small people: from collisions in the street, to wearing children’s sweaters, to the lobes of a dog that keeps knocking Alexandre over. A literal “running gag”, but where the viewer keeps thinking: why does Alexandre’s son Benji (César Domboy) who live at home even have a dog that is almost the same size as his father? The appalling lack of consideration and tactlessness of Diane’s environment is sometimes cringe-inducing. You might understand his jealousy about Snow White from her ex-husband Bruno (Cédric Kahn), with whom she (of course!) Still has a law firm together, but just about everyone reacts extremely dismissively. The scenes with Diane’s mother Nicole (Manoëlle Gaillard) are so exaggerated, that every ‘humor’ there has long since closed the door behind it. It is not satire, not a mirror for the viewer, but it only seems to reflect the creators’ sense of humor. That makes the film painfully insincere on those points.

The mediocre digital tricks box to reduce Dujardin to a length of 1.36 meters only reinforces the feeling of insincerity. In the distance shots in particular, Dujardin’s scaled-down body looks quite unrealistic.

Director Laurant Tirard puts down a messy film here, a remake of the Argentinian / Brazilian film ‘Corazón de Leon’ from 2013, and which has to rely too heavily on the efforts of Jean Dujardin to make it something acceptable. This largely succeeds and with that ‘Un homme à la hauteur’ is just as light as a summer evening dessert, just like 99% of all romantic comedies, and also to forget so quickly.

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