Russian Dolls (Les Poupees Russes)

Starring Romain Duris, Kevin Bishop and Audrey Tatou. Directed by Cédric Klapisch.
Running Time: 125 mins.
Rated: Rated M.
Russian Dolls is a sequel of sorts. Five years on, we take up with the students we met in The Spanish Apartment (L'Auberge Espagnole). The group is reunited in St Petersburg for the wedding of one of their number, William (Bishop). He is marrying a Russian Ballerina. Xavier (Duris) narrates the film (endlessly). He has left high the finance world behind to become a creative writer. He is co-writing a soap opera romance for French and British television with Wendy, a London based scriptwriter and victim of physical abuse. Xavier is also ghost writing the memoirs of supermodel Celia Shelburn (Lucy Gordon). Xavier's former girlfriend Martine (Tatou) now has a boy from another relationship. She is still in love with Xavier. And the lesbian stockbroker Isabelle (Cecile de France) has made it on French TV as a business reporter.

If all this feels haphazard, then you have nailed Russian Dolls in one. The visual style of the film matches the chaotic narrative.

I am sure director Cédric Klapisch is trying to say something profound about the messy nature of maturation, but I just found the story line in this film an endless jumble of half interesting ideas and events. Most of the characters were cut outs of the real thing. There are serious believability problems here.

Russian Dolls' main interest is in Xavier, who is a sexually addicted bore. Why should we care for someone as self absorbed as he is? There is some nudity, drug taking and a few sex scenes which offend some viewers.

The title refers to the babushka dolls where one layer gives way to another sometimes similar, sometimes different image. The film of the same name is nowhere near as interesting. Each layer is as unfocused, forced and vacuous as the last one.

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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