3 HEARTS (3 coeurs)
Cohen Media Group
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for CompuServe ShowBiz.  Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade:  A-
Director:  Benoît Jacquot
Screenwriters: Benoît Jacquot, Julien Boivent
Cast:  Benoît Poelvoorde, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 2/25/15
Opens: March 13, 2015

You may have seen articles with the title “Why nice girls date bad boys,” which hold that girls find handsome, carefree, irresponsible guys on motorcycles to be exciting to date.  But they marry ordinary-looking accountants and lawyers who, they believe, will make good fathers.  In a drama about a romantic triangle, this one dealing with a more carefree woman and her more family-oriented sister, Benoît Jacquot, whose “Farewell My Queen” looks at the relationship between Marie Antoinette and one of her readers during the early days of the French Revolution,takes on a triangular romance.  A guy’s passion is directed to a carefree woman he meets on the streets of Valence, a small French town, after he barely misses the last train back to Paris.  He is so excited by Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and she by him that before you can say “Before Sunrise” they are up all night talking.  When a series of contrived coincidences finds this Marc (Benoît Poelvoorde) later running into Sylvie’s sister Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni), the melodrama takes off, as Sophie, with whom he then carries on a relationship, has no idea that he knew her sister.

But Marc certainly knows sister Sylvie, in fact he cannot get her out of his mind even though this ordinary looking, slightly overweight and reserved tax inspector will commit himself to the more bourgeois Sophie.  Through a series of revelations brought upon through the miracle of Skype, he will become aware of Sophie’s family connection to Sylvie, but will hide this knowledge from Sophie because his heart still belongs to the former woman.

Speaking of heart, there is much mention of that vital organ in the movie.  Sylvie and Marc had agreed to meet by a fountain in the Tuileries garden at 6 p.m. on a future evening but because Marc suffers a mal de coeur, perhaps even a heart attack, he has no way of getting in touch with Sylvie to postpone the meeting.  As a result, Sylvie, disappointed and with a broken heart herself, wanders off, resolving to put up with her dead marriage to Christopher (Patrick Mille) and to follow him to a new job in Minneapolis where she becomes homesick for sis and her mother, Madame Berger (Catherine Deneuve).

Somehow, mothers have intuition that the young do not.  When the madame suspects something afoot, something triangular, she warns Marc to “leave her [Sylvie] alone.”

After seeing a silly romantic-comedy-caper pic like “Focus” starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie, then comparing that to this movie, you can look at that big, Hollywood blockbuster with disdain.  After all, “3 Hearts,” a smaller movie, deals with authentic people, there is just the right touch of comedy without forcing the smiles and laughs down audience throats, and the acting in “3 Hearts” is superb.  Catherine Deneuve continues to have timeless beauty, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni perform their roles as passion-flower and marrying kind seamlessly, and Benoît pulls off his role as Mr. Ordinary whose conflict between his wife and his preferred lover is heartbreaking.   We can sense that Sophie, who had become Marc’s wife, sees that something is missing in their relationship without knowing the facts, and Sylvie, who has had had a close bond with her sister running an antique store together in a provincial town, is torn between doing the right thing by confessing all and keeping up the secret liaison with her sister’s husband.

As though in a Chekhov play, both sisters are heading toward emotional ruin without the slightest clue on how to reconcile the dilemma.  “3 Hearts” features exquisite acting, subtle direction, and finely honed script, though the melodramatic music and the occasional narration seem excessive.

Rated PG-13:  106 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting  – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – A-


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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