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Film Review: FRENCH GIRL (2024): Zach Braff is Back in a Sweet Romantic Comedy That Gets a Bit Too Heavy at Times

Vanessa Hudgens Zach Braff French Girl

French Girl Review

French Girl (2024) Film Review, a movie written and directed by James A. Woods and Nicolas Wright and starring Zach Braff, Vanessa Hudgens, Evelyne Brochu, William Fichtner, Antoine Olivier Pilon, Charlotte Aubin, Melia Charlotte Cressaty, Catherine De Seve, Muriel Dutil, Kylla Lefrancois, Luc Picard, Llyr Yan-Ho Redweik-Leung, Isabelle Vincent and Alex Woods.

French Girl, directed by James A. Woods and Nicolas Wright, has all the ingredients for a successful comedy but gets bogged down by too many scenes of heavy drama in the latter half of the picture. These sequences, at times, feel more cringe-inducing than funny. Yet, at the same time, they make you think which is what Zach Braff movies do whether he stars in them or directs them. Braff is solid in French Girl but the more the movie’s story line plays out, the more you may wish his character would pack up his suitcase and head back to the States– with or without the love of his life.

There is a romantic relationship at the center of French Girl which is very believable. It is between Braff’s character, Gordon and Sophie (Evelyne Brochu). Gordon is a middle school English teacher from Brooklyn while Sophie has high aspirations to do more with her life in Quebec City where her family lives. Sophie wants to work in the food industry but still carries a torch for an old female friend named Ruby Collins (Vanessa Hudgens has never been better). This old friend is a phenomenon in the food business Sophie yearns to be a part of but Sophie wants to be judged on the basis of her merits not on the fact that Ruby may still have feelings for Sophie, herself.

The film opens with a look at Gordon’s life with his dad, Peter (William Fichtner) in Brooklyn and establishes the bond between Gordon and Sophie. When they get on a plane to Sophie’s hometown, Gordon meets her parents (extremely well played by Luc Picard and Isabelle Vincent). Gordon is sort of awkward and doesn’t always know what the right thing to say is. The problem is that Sophie’s folks are struggling to keep the family farm afloat and Sophie’s brother (Antoine Olivier Pilon) failed the test to get into the police academy yet again. They don’t have time to get to know Gordon. They need action and financial stability. Ruby offers that to Sophie and her family in several ways. Ruby takes them duck hunting and embraces the family structure Sophie surrounds herself with. Is Ruby just using them to get back with Sophie or does she truly love Sophie despite hurting her feelings years back? The film deals with these themes in an intelligent way.

There are a number of funny scenes. Gordon goes hunting and accidentally shoots a large swan instead of a duck in a moment of utter embarrassment. Also intriguing is the bond Gordon forms with Sophie’s brother as Gordon offers to help him study for the test to get into the police academy. Pilon and Braff have some fun scenes together and develop their bond effectively on screen.

The problem is how heavy it all seems at times. Sophie has to give in to Ruby in order to help her family or stay true to her heart and try to be with the awkward but utterly sincere and lovable Gordon. For a second or two, the directors dig deep into the premise in a scene where Ruby reveals that she is going to hire Sophie and her family to work for her. But, at what cost would that be to Sophie’s soul? After all, Sophie was hurt by Ruby before and there’s no guarantee Ruby won’t hurt her again.

Still, the movie makes use of its locations well. There is a funny scene towards the end where Gordon steals Ruby’s car and Sophie’s family goes after him with the help of a female police officer. When the movie is at its best, it’s endearing and humorous. Sophie’s grandmother (Muriel Dutil) gets some laughs as she shows up unexpectedly during the night as Sophie and Gordon cuddle in bed together. In the Brooklyn scenes, Fichtner gets some funny moments too as the blue collar dad who ultimately wants his son to be happy in his life choices.

Hudgens is amazing in the fact that her performance walks the line between being pleasant and nasty and never totally leans in one particular direction. Hudgens is very plausible in the role and keeps the audience interested in her character’s development. She doesn’t turn into a monster like we expect her to but, instead, the film makes Sophie decide what she wants to do in terms of her life choices before jumping into final decisions with Ruby that would permanently alter her relationship with Gordon. This film is pretty smart but the uneasy mix of comedy and drama could be a turn-off for folks expecting a light-hearted picture.

Zach Braff and Evelyne Brochu have nice chemistry on-screen together which keeps the movie likable throughout despite its flaws. Still, there’s the pesky matter of the uneasy mix of dramatic elements into the comedy. In the end, I enjoyed French Girl more than I thought I would because of the unpredictability of all of it. It’s far from the best film Zach Braff has ever done, but it makes the viewer think in-between its scenes of goofball comedy and not many comedies do that these days.

Rating: 6.5/10

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