Love Me If You Dare

on May 21, 2004 by Kim Williamson
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At one February screening of this French frolic (with a print still titled "Child's Play," a closer translation of the original "Jeux D'Enfants"), the speaker volume was so high that one couldn't discern the difference between Philippe Rombi's music on the soundtrack and the clanking on concrete of drills in a construction site, the setting of the film's opening scene and the climax. Oddly, the tumult aptly set the stage for the discordances of this romance of Julien ("The Beach's" Guillaume Canet) and Sophie ("Big Fish's" Marion Cotillard), who as eight-year-old schoolchildren began what would become a lifelong game of daring each other to do something unthinkable. In the early years, their pranks were us against the world--peeing on a principal's floor--but as they age into adulthood and their long friendship turns confusingly to love, their dares turn inward, at each other.

In the hands of animator-turned-feature director Yann Samuell, "Love Me If You Dare" has charming and moving moments, thanks to the engaging turns by Canet and Cotillard, both high on the attractiveness scale. What is not so attractive, and thus defeats the usual audience impetus in a love story, is the characters' fixation not so much on each other as on themselves; you find yourself wanting them to kiss, even as you wish to slap them for their boorish behaviors toward the people around them. Told in a florid visual style that's certainly colorful and fitfully entertaining, but not thematically deepening, "Love Me If You Dare" will likely challenge all but the hardier among the art-house crowd, as the director's flights of cinematic fancy sometimes seem, like each of the lovers' antics, to be amusing primarily to himself. Starring Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard. Directed by Yann Samuell. Written by Jacky Cukier and Yann Samuell. Produced by Christophe Rossignon. A Paramount Classics release. Romance. French-language; subtitled. Rated R for language and some sexuality. Running time: 93 min

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