French Girl

By: Jolie Featherstone

Funny and charming, French Girl takes audiences back to the classic romantic comedies of the 2000s in this impressive feature-length directorial debut from James A. Woods and Nicolas Wright.

Brooklyn-based Gordon (Zach Braff of Scrubs and Garden State fame), an earnest public school teacher and hopeless romantic, plans to propose to his girlfriend, Sophie (Orphan Black’s Evelyne Brochu), a talented chef from Quebec.  His plans are disrupted when Sophie receives an alluring job offer – she’s invited to interview for the role of head chef at the new restaurant opening at the iconic Chateau Laurier in Quebec City.  The catch?  The restaurant is owned by celebrity chef, Ruby (Vanessa Hudgens of Netflix’s Princess Switch series) – who just so happens to be Sophie’s ex.  But Gordon doesn’t know that…yet. 

Determined to follow through on his proposal plans and eager to meet Sophie’s family, he travels back home with her where he finds himself to be a fish-out-of-water among her Quebecois family. 

French Girl is both sweet and laugh-out-loud funny.  There’s a warmth to the film – a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will.  It’s genuinely comedic without being mean-spirited.  It reminded me of sitting around the glossy glow of a rom-com at a slumber party growing up, or trips to the theatre with my sister or friends.  Lately, it’s hard to find rom-coms with a healthy amount of comedy.  French Girl actively focuses on comedy and does a good job of hitting those humorous beats.  Much of the humour comes from the clash between Braff’s anxious and eager-to-please Gordon and Sophie’s salt-of-the-Earth, French Canadian farming family.  The tight-knit family bonds – the inside jokes, the grievances, all of it – are lovingly portrayed by the excellent ensemble cast made up of many bright stars of Quebecois cinema. 

There is a big focus on love.  Romantic, of course, but also love among family.  The scenes with Sophie’s family are intimate and familiar.  Some of the sweetest scenes are between Gordon and Sophie’s brother, Junior (Antoine Olivier Pilon).  Junior doesn’t want to keep the sinking farm afloat.  He wants to be a cop.  Gordon takes it upon himself to help Junior and the family’s patriarch (Luc Picard) work things out.  Meanwhile, some of the funniest scenes involve Gordon’s Dad, Peter (the prolific William Fichtner, he previously worked with the directors on Independence Day: Resurgence) – a hilariously insouciant counterpart to Gordon’s anxious sincerity. 

Braff and Brochu are delightful as Gordon and the titular character, respectively.  Brochu plays Sophie with an innocent and open-heart, but also with a strong work ethic and determination.  She’s not a bumbling “Oh I’m so cute but I’m such a clutz!” damsel.  She’s a woman with a lot to bring to the table (pun not intended).  It is also refreshing to see a loving, flirty romance between adults on screen (an area that often feels reserved for young’ins). 

The weak link in the film is that the portrayal of Ruby is on a different channel than the rest of the film.  Hudgens’ is steering toward her Hallmark-style-Netflix-produced holiday rom-com approach.  Ruby feels opaque, making her feel disparate from the textured warmth of the film. 

The film lovingly highlights the beauty of La Belle Province.  Following a special advanced screening of the film in Toronto, the directors mentioned that they grew up in Quebec and came from similar backgrounds.  They both have English Dads who fell in love with French Canadian women and moved to Quebec.  The filmmakers’ love and respect for Quebec is imbued authentically in every wide shot of the setting. 

Story-wise, French Girl is a decidedly Canadian take on a familiar genre (think Meet the Parents).  It’s warm, sweet, and comical, making it the perfect choice for date night, ladies’ night, or a comfort watch after a stressful day.  Let the sights of Quebec City, the imagined smells of the delicious cuisine, and the laughs of the romantic pratfalls keep you cozy.


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