PARIS WRITER/DIRECTOR Cédric Klapisch is best known for 2002's L'Auberge Espanole, a study-abroad sex romp beloved by foreign exchange students worldwide. While L'Auberge and its sequel, Les Poupées Russes, are largely concerned with the existential and romantic crises of the young and pretty, Paris broadens that scope to examine the existential and romantic crises of the young-to-middle aged (and pretty). Paris is as ambitious as its title suggests: Klapisch attempts to present a microcosm of the city itself, a sort of cinematic snow globe populated by characters connected by blood, friendship, proximity, and commerce.
The film follows a series of interrelated storylines: A young man (L'Auberge's dreamy Romain Duris) who will die if he doesn't receive a heart transplant is cared for by his sister (an attractively harried Juliette Binoche); a professor (not pretty, so he'll remain nameless) makes a fool of himself over a student (the gorgeous Mélanie Laurent, seen recently as a bold member of the Resistance in Inglourious Basterds); a woman who works at a vegetable market flirts with her fellow vendors; a young society girl has a fling with a native in Cameroon.
It's in that last storyline that Paris' well-intentioned microcosm falls apart. Klapisch lovingly describes the eccentricities and anxieties of his white, native-born French characters, but the cursory attention paid to non-native and non-white French characters is worse than none at all. The movie follows the Cameroonian character as he emigrates to France, a journey that involves no small amount of hardship. Splicing his experiences among the "first-world problems" of the film's Paris-based characters is clearly intended to diversify the perspectives represented here, but in the context of the rest of the film it feels like the token effort that it is. Paris works just fine as a sexy melodrama that's philosophical and slutty at the same time—but it never quite lives up to the all-encompassing promise of its title.