Russian Dolls review by Tom Blain

Russian Dolls examines Xavier, a character from LAuberge Espanole, 5 years after that movie has taken place. Its a movie Ive never heard of, but judging by the description on the back cover, it was somewhat popular. Line 1: Xavier is back! Oh this jackass cant wait; how delicious!

Apparently the original was about a bunch 20-somethings from different countries, living in Barcelona together. I pictured a European Friends, but a little more serious. Just a guess, maybe its closer to Secaucus 7. Either way Russian Dolls is a lot more thought provoking than Joey.

Xavier (Romain Duris) is this little French fellow that is nearing 30 years of age. He is writer who lives in Paris and his goal is to write a great novel. His relationships with women seem to be as fruitless as his writing career. He meets a girl, sleeps with her, and then finds something wrong with her (or vice versa). His friend Martine (Amelies Audrey Tatou) and would-be love Wendy point out, much of Xaviers problems in life seem to stem from his immaturity. He is a dreamer and an idealist who wont commit to a woman who doesnt fit his perfect princess mold. Despite his own flaws and drawbacks he cannot accept that of others and therefore cant really love someone. Xavier's personal problems also bleeds into his uninspired writing; Leading to frustration in all aspects of Xavier's life.

As we trace his life back for the past year, or so, we see that he is a struggling writer who takes odd jobs just to make ends meet. He writes everything from small newspaper articles on cutting tree limbs to scripts for cheesy romance/soap opera movies that appear on local television. None of these jobs really seem to hit the spot for Xavier, and his big novel doesnt seem to be getting anywhere. When his job writing corny movie screenplays switches to from French to English, he gets paired up with his buddys sister Wendy (Kelly Reilly). As they work more and more together, they mature as friends and then into something greater. The only question is whether Xavier is mature enough to commit.

Xaviers plight isnt exactly original; Ive known plenty of guys with the same clouded view on their life and have seen many American and foreign movies on the subject. He is a very self-centered character and not much different than the others. I guess in a way its more delightful to watch the sites surrounding Xavier and the different types of people he encounters. There are many people along the way (in particular at his friends wedding towards the end) that are more entertaining and more interesting than ole Dr. X.

One odd thing about Russian Dolls is how long it takes to introduce the two lovers. By the time it Wendy and Xavier met, I thought it was going to being introduced as a side story. The movies pacing seemed to be a bit awkward. A lot of time was devoted to scenes and characters that were neither interesting nor necessary. And its also odd that we dont even hear the not-so-obvious explanation for the Russian Dolls title until the end.

As someone who has never seen LAuberge Espanole, Ill have to say it didnt take long to get my bearings on the characters. I believe the movie works well as a separate piece but maybe it gains more from prior knowledge. Languages spoken in the film are French, English and Russian (I believe thats it), and set locations include portions of France, as well as St. Petersburg, Russia. Overall the movie didnt break any ground on the subject of a young 20 year old finally maturing when he reaches 30 but its still somewhat enjoyable.




5 out of 10 Jackasses
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