The original title of the French farce “The Trouble With You” is “En Liberte!,” which roughly translates to “Unleashed!” That fits better, both as a pun on the film’s plot and a clue to its wild comedic spirit.
“The Trouble With You” played Friday at the Wisconsin Film Festival at Shannon Hall in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Memorial Union.
Adele Haenal, worlds away from the somber doctor she played in the Dardennes Brothers’ “The Unknown Girl,” plays Yvonne, a Marseille police detective who is the widow of the city’s recently deceased police chief Santi (Vincent Elbaz).
Santi was a supercop and a hero to the department. A gaudy bronze statue is erected in his honor at the waterfront, and Yvonne entertains their son Theo with bedtime stories of Santi’s exploits that play onscreen like over-the-top action movies. Maybe Santi didn’t really leap out a 10-story window and land comfortably in the front seat of a convertible, but the myth keeps Yvonne and Theo happy.
Except that Yvonne discovers that Santi was a dirty cop. Among his misdeeds, eight years earlier he masterminded a jewelry store heist and framed a store employee Antoine (Pio Marmal) for the crime. Antoine is about to be released from prison, and Yvonne is determined to make amends.
But after eight years in prison, Antoine has become unhinged, reasoning that if he’s done the time, he might as well do the crime. He embarks on a series of ill-advised, poorly planned stickups, with Yvonne trailing along trying to clean up Antoine’s messes and keep him from going to jail. Eventually, Yvonne and Antoine fall for each other, even though Antoine is married to Agnes (Audrey Tautou — yes, “Amelie” herself!) and Yvonne has also started something with her husband’s ex-partner (Damien Bonnard).
If this sounds complicated, it is, and only gets more complicated as director Pierre Salvadori and writers Benoit Graffin and Benjamin Charbit spin the story off in wilder and wilder directions. The film is more preoccupied with its romantic entanglements than any criminal activity, and so are the characters. A running joke in the film is a serial killer keeps trying to confess, but the cops are too distracted to pay attention.
Honestly, I got a little exhausted in the middle of “The Trouble With You” trying to keep up with all the misunderstandings and misdirections, but Salvadori pulls it all together in a finale that’s as romantic as it is funny. “The Trouble With You” doesn’t stick with you for more than a few hours after it’s over, but it’s fun while it lasts.
The Wisconsin Film Festival continues through Thursday. For a full schedule, visit 2019.wifilmfest.org.