Jet Lag

dir. Thompson

Opens Fri, July 11

Fox Tower

With his tired, hound dog eyes and withdrawn countenance, Jean Reno (The Professional) is an apt choice for the title character in Jet Leg. Felix is a world-class chef traveling from New York to Munich to attend his ex-girlfriend Nadia's dad's funeral--a man he's only met three times. He is trying to mend his relationship with Nadia, a woman we never see or hear but who calls intermittently on his cell phone. But when Felix's plane is grounded in Paris (first due to weather, then a computer glitch, then), his travel itinerary is accidentally intertwined with Rose (Juliette Binoche), a beautician on the run from her drab suburban life and abusive boyfriend.

Although the characters make jabs at Americans and American culture (like the French like to do), there is something decidedly Pretty Woman and/or Planes, Trains and Automobiles about the plot's framework. Rose is working-class gauche. Felix is rich, cultured, and featured in magazines. Rose is John Candy bubbly and unabashed. Felix is Steve Martin aloof and neurotic.

Early in the story, when Rose's cell phone slips into the loo, she has no problem asking a stranger (Felix) to borrow his cell phone and then monopolizing it. These circumstances push Felix and Rose together like unwilling dance partners. At first the oddball couple move around each other stiffly. But eventually, of course, the two find a grace and mutual admiration.

Yet in spite of flawless performances, the emotional chemistry never quite comes to a boil. In fact, the most telling line in the film is delivered by Rose as an insult to Felix, a highly regarded chef recently turned CEO of a frozen gourmet food corporation. She asks whether his line of frozen chickens represents his emotional make-up--frozen, shrink-wrapped and its taste a reminder of something far more flavorful.

Although the insult is leveled at Felix, this is also the case with Jet Lag: Certainly likeable, but bland.

Like Chocolat, cooking is meant to awaken the characters' libidos and to bring another sensation into the film watching experience. Yet, for a movie allegedly about sensation, it is mostly void of sensuality.