One swallow does not make a summer, and one song (well, two if you count the finale) does not make a musical. So "Côte d'Azur," a breezy French soufflé about a family on vacation by the sea, is a tricky little devil to classify. You might call it a musical without songs (mostly), or a farce without enough doors to slam, or a comedy without enough jokes. It's a pleasant enough 90 minutes, but there's not much of a point to it; it feels as insubstantial as the sea breeze that ruffles the curtains in the family's casual villa.
Everyone in the film seems to be trying on a new relationship or a new identity to see if it fits, like a new bikini. Mother Béatrix (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, languorously stretching her long legs) has a lover, Mathieu (Jacques Bonnaffé, in unfortunate sideburns), whom she's hiding from her husband. This isn't always easy: Mathieu, it turns out, has a penchant for showing up naked at the villa in the middle of the night, hiding behind a convenient potted plant. Husband Marc (Gilbert Melki) is surprised when his own former lover, Didier (Jean-Marc Barr), shows up.
Daughter Laura (Sabrina Seyvecou) is eager to take off on a "sexcapade" to Portugal with her new biker boyfriend. And everyone thinks son Charly (Romain Torres), who's brought his friend Martin (Édouard Collin) along for the holiday, is gay — except for Charly himself, who isn't so sure.
Co-directors Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau keep things moving along, and provide some witty detail. (Béatrix and Marc share a pair of pajamas on their vacation — she gets the top, he gets the bottoms.) And Bruni-Tedeschi — a wonderful dramatic actress recently seen in "5 x 2" — contributes a giddy portrait of a mother not quite ready to be sedate; she totters along the beach paths in her sky-high wedge heels, swaying her hips like she's waving a flag.
But the whole thing just isn't quite as charming as it wants to be: The musical number in the middle feels entirely random (and poorly sung); other moments feel too self-consciously playful. Everyone seems quite genuinely on holiday; ultimately, the filmmaking seems to have gone there, too. "Côte d'Azur" might have worked as summer escapism, but now it seems out of place, like a pair of flimsy sandals on a frosty day.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or email@example.com