They say Paris is for lovers, and with a title like Under the Eiffel Tower, romance should definitely be in the air. Viewers expecting a by the numbers romantic comedy may be pleasantly surprised, as this film has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Stuart (Veep’s Matt Walsh) is a liquor salesman who, thanks to having lost his passion for his job as a Bourbon salesman, is fired from his gig. Before going down a deeper rabbit hole of depression, Stuart is persuaded by his good friends Frank (David Wain) and Tillie (Michaela Watkins) to tag along on a Paris trip. After mistaking the affections of their 26-year-old daughter Rosalind (Dylan Gelula) and irrationally proposing to her, Stuart is rejected and becomes alienated from his friends. Losing a job and buddies is not helping Stuart’s life crisis, but his problems are temporarily forgotten thanks to the kindness of Liam (Reid Scott, also a Veep alum), a roguish ex-soccer player (at least he claims to be) looking for a bit of fun.
What starts off as a bromance becomes a love triangle thanks to the appearance of Louise (Judith Godreche), a vineyard owner who may be itching for a bit of excitement in her life. Gary Cole is Gerard, a wheelchair bound American who serves as a co-owner of the property.
Director/writer Archie Borders, who penned the script with David Henry and Godreche, delivers a nuanced story that is not afraid to take its time with its characters. Through fate these two men end up living on Louise’s spacious domicile, and the way they respectively approach their time in France makes for a fun watch.
Godreche, who was excellent in the 2015 feature The Overnight, brings a welcome level of sensitivity to the proceedings, and her chemistry with Walsh is palpable.
Stuart’s mid-life crisis is also, while played for jokes, is also given a much more layered approach. Stuart, even amidst his mistakes, is trying his best to come out the other side, and his gentle and organic approach in getting to know Louise as more than just a sex object (Liam probably sees her as another notch in his belt) was highly appreciated.
Full disclosure – I’m a middle aged guy and 50 is just around the corner, and years ago the womanizing behavior of Liam would be something I’d actually condone. Under the Eiffel Tower, however, wasn’t made for the carnal thrill of it all, as Borders fashions a story of people who are trying their best to rise above the complacency and resignation life brings.
The flourishing romance between Stuart and Louise also feels real and earned, and though Under The Eiffel Tower does have its conventional moments (what romcom doesn’t?), their coupling (and possible break-up?) imbues the story with a solid foundation. Wain and Watkins, as usual, are absolutely funny (I wish there was much more of them in the flick), and Scott is also engaging as the Scot with one thing on his mind.
As the sad sack who (spoiler alert) isn’t as big of a loser as he thinks he is, Walsh delivers a beguilingly charismatic and understated performance. Godréche, who’s also playing a lost soul, is also effective and her connection with Walsh actually feels authentic. In a brilliant stroke to end the feature, Borders ushers in a seemingly predictable moment and pays it off with an unexpected remark. Under The Eiffel Tower may not be breaking the rules of the romantic comedy, but with two engaging leads and a solid screenplay, why change the game?
Rating: 4 out of 5
Under The Eiffel Tower hits theaters February 8 and On Digital and On Demand on February 12.