Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jet Lag (Décalage horaire) -- connections and relationships

Director: Danièle Thompson, 2002.

Jet Lag is about connections and relationships. Not surprisingly two cell phones function as key props to propel the story.

The story is set in Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris and the airport Hilton hotel. Felix (Jean Reno), a chef and frozen food business owner, is arriving on a plane en route to Munich. He is jet lagged and grumpy. Rose (Juliette Binoche), a beautician, is departing for Acapulco. But labor strikes and bad weather shut the airport down.

Rose retreats to a bathroom while talking on her cell phone and accidentally flushes it away. Needing to complete her conversation, she asks to borrow a cell phone from a stranger, none other than Felix. Fate and lost cell phones brings them together in this French rom-com.

Ironically, Rose speaks a voice-over the begining of the movie as we see Felix sleeping in his first-class seat. She comments on how life is not like Hollywood films, and puts down these films. Life is not even like Andy Warhol's vision, where everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame. The irony is that Thompson originally wrote this film for Hollywood, but then retooled it to direct itself her as a French film. Yet, it is more like a Hollywood rom-com than a Parisian love story.

Thompson brings together two fine European actors. Binoche is one of the greatest female actors alive. An Oscar-winner for her supporting role in The English Patient, her best work is in her French films such as Blue and The Flight of the Red Balloon. Moroccan Reno, has been a stock actor in many Hollywood films, such as Mission Impossible and The Pink Panther. Yet, somehow Reno seems too old for Binoche here, and their chemistry is subdued.

When Felix is offered a free room at the Hilton because of the inconvenience of the strike, he kindly offers to share it with Rose, with no hidden agenda since there are two beds. Indeed, as with most films in this genre, they begin with an indifference to one another than turns hostile before it can get through the masks that each wear.

Rose has a physical mask -- her make-up. As a beautician, she puts on the products of her trade and looks stunning. Yet, it is only when she takes off this mask that Felix begins to see her, to take notice of the beautiful woman who is sharing his room.

Felix' mask is his work. He is constantly working, trying to prove himself through his culinary creations. Yet, he is as frozen as the frozen dinners he concocts.

In their conversation over room-service dinner, it becomes clear that what they have in common is their misery. They are both miserable in their lonely lives. Rose has stayed in an abusive relationship with Sergio (Sergi Lopez), fearing escape. Felix simply cannot sustain a relationship. He now connects only through his cell phone, which goes off even at the most inopportune times.

Jet Lag is mostly superficial, an unthinking fun French frolic. Yet it does remind us that we need to remove our masks and face our fears if we are to move beyond loneliness into real and healthy relationships. Like Man on the Train, these two strangers have more honesty in their dinner dialog than most married couples, probably because they expect not to see each other again. True relationship is built on authenticity and transparency.

How often do we remain in a rut because we are afraid to move on? How often do we lose ourselves in our work because we are afraid of commitment to a partner or spouse? When he made humanity, God said "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18). We are very blessed if we find a soul-mate who completes us as Eve did for Adam. If you have that person, put the cell phone down, take your mask off and talk to her with heart-felt honesty. If you don't have that person, pray and ponder. Don't settle for empty relationship or abusive ones. Look for the real thing!

Copyright ©2009, Martin Baggs

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