Julia Roberts played a world-famous movie star who falls in love with a civilian in the strategically charming 1999 comedy ”Notting Hill,” and the meta-fake-out was that Roberts really is a world-famous movie star. The more wistful joke, though, may have been that lovers from such different worlds could survive the hustle and pressure of media attention. (Ask Benjamin Bratt, not exactly unfamous, about that one. And best wishes to new groom Danny Moder.)
On the basis of the equally charming French comedy My Wife Is an Actress, real-life husband and wife Yvan Attal and Charlotte Gainsbourg approach love in a time of celebrity with their eyes wide open. The two play a married couple – called Yvan and Charlotte – in a feisty and self-aware first feature written and directed by actor Attal, in which a less-than-star husband struggles with the impact of his wife’s fame. It’s bad enough when the couple’s private time is regularly interrupted by autograph seekers; it’s worst when Charlotte is on the job – in bed. (Terence Stamp goes to town as Charlotte’s hardened, seductive costar.)
Gainsbourg, famous in France, usually plays far more neurasthenic heroines, and it’s a pleasure to see her relax, apparently delighting in the exuberant expressiveness of her hubby the director. The Israeli-born Attal, meanwhile, adds an unnecessary but intriguing subplot involving Yvan’s very pregnant, very Jewish sister (Noemie Lvovsky), who smokes, drinks, and argues with her gentile husband about circumcision. With every detail in this clever peekaboo, the sly filmmaker dangles the possibility that fiction is fact and that Yvan and Charlotte are real – or at least as real as the movies.