A midlife crisis won’t stop the protagonist from finding love in this pretty funny romantic comedy from director Archie Borders.
Stuart is a man in his forties who is suffering hard since losing his job unexpectedly. Feeling down and out, he accepts an invitation to go to France by his best friend Frank and his family. Joining the duo Frank’s wife Tillie and daughter Rosalind. During dinner, Rosalind jokes around with Stuart, who finds himself in love with her and decides under the Eiffel Tower, to propose marriage to her, much to the chagrin of Tillie and Frank. Rosalind rejects him and considers him insane for what he has done.
Isolated from his best friend and family, Stuart embarks on a solo trip through the French countryside. There, he makes a new friend in Scottish traveler Liam. Together, the duo hit up a vineyard which is run by American Gerard as well as Louise, a young woman the duo met on the train en route to the vineyard. At first, Liam begins to have feelings for Louise but after suffering an accident, Liam finds himself out of the picture while Stuart and Louise begin to have a connection, one that Stuart has longed for. Will he be able to find himself amid possibly falling in love in France?
The tagline for this film is “Life can be sour, love can be sweet”. That couldn’t prove to be truer in this indie rom-com from director Archie Borders, who co-wrote the screenplay with co-star Judith Godréche and David Henry. The film has elements reminiscent of Sideways in some ways with the vineyard as a set up for an unexpected romance between protagonist Stuart and worker Louise. While it takes some time for this romance to pick up, it is worth the wait as from the moment they lock eyes on each other, that attraction is there.
The driving force of the film is Matt Walsh as the embittered Stuart. Serving as the narrator in the film’s opening, he has no reservations going off on his boss when out of left field, he is terminated from his job. Walsh’s character is the embodiment of what it is like to go through a midlife crisis only to find something positive come out of it. We see as he gets invited to France but then makes the mistake of proposing to his best friend’s twenty-four year old daughter, perhaps in desperation, and leading him to be isolated and outcast. David Wain brings some comic relief in his limited screen time as Frank, but Michaela Watkins’ Tillie brings a damper to the mood of perhaps everyone in the film with her controlling nature.
The characters of Louise and Liam bring a sense of redemption for Stuart. Liam, played by Reid Scott, is a traveler from Scotland who sees Stuart as a potential friend. What is interesting is that when we are introduced to Louise, played by Godréche, who could pass for a Juliette Binoche-look alike, one hopes for a relationship between Stuart and Louise until we see Liam getting to her first for a while in the film. Interestingly enough, Stuart has other things on his mind and how he can make himself a better person in times of need. It is as if the rejection was making him not want to pursue a relationship until he and Louise finally get together. However, with all romantic comedies, there are those twists and turns that make relationships, both romantic and friendly, unstable and yet, as a trope of the genre, it all works out by the end.
Under the Eiffel Tower melds the rom-com with the midlife crisis genre in a funny way thanks to Matt Walsh’s lead turn and a great supporting cast helping him find himself all while falling in love.
WFG RATING: B
The Orchard presents a KanZaman production in association with 180 Degrees Films. Director: Archie Borders. Producers: Matt Walsh, Judith Godréche, Paul Davidson, Daniela DiGiacomo, and Brad Navin. Writers: Archie Borders, Judith Godréche, and David Henry. Cinematography: Léo Hinstin. Editing: Libby Cuenin.
Cast: Matt Walsh, Judith Godréche, Reid Scott, David Wain, Michaela Watkins, Dylan Gelula, Gary Cole, Tess Barthélémy, Morgan Walsh.