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"Bright Days Ahead" Movie Review: 2 Stars
by Dennis Harvey
Caroline, played by 64-year-old Fanny Ardant, has an affair with Julien, played by 41-year-old Laurent Lafitte, in "Bright Days Ahead," and that's pretty much all there is to Marion Vernoux's trite tale.
Lame humor and underdeveloped drama make little of the sexual-revival-in-late-life theme, instead simply placing all the chips on the female star's undeniable, undimmed glamour -- though it hardly seems boundary-pushing that a younger man might desire someone like Ardant, who probably wears the same snug jeans size she did at 24.
Having abandoned her dental practice a bit ahead of schedule over a dispute with a colleague, and having lost her best friend to cancer recently as well, Caroline doesn't really know what to do with her sudden surplus of free time.
Two daughters, now married with kids of their own, get her a trial membership to the titular local senior center, which on a first visit she finds offensively condescending toward its clientele. But when her longtime spouse, Philippe (Patrick Chesnais), can't figure out what's wrong with his PC, she reluctantly returns to take a computer class.
She finds herself starting to enjoy the various activities offered (pottery, wine tasting, nature walks, etc.), as well as the new friends she makes there, none more than attractive younger computer instructor Julien, and after little hesitation, they embark on a secret, highly physical involvement.
It doesn't remain secret for long among the center's bemused patrons and staff.
Last to know -- though her uncharacteristically giddy behavior and frequent absences tip him off soon enough -- is Philippe, who does not take lightly this betrayal or his wife's unapologetic response when confronted. Then again, Julien doesn't seem a very reliable fresh-start alternative, as he admits to being a sexual free agent, disinclined to commit to any one relationship.
But Caroline never seems all that concerned about her future, her family's feelings or anything else.
She's an elegant blank filled only by Ardant's reliable star magnetism, just as Julien has little personality beyond the charm Lafitte brings to the role. (Playing the one character whose actions are more understandable than arbitrary, Chesnais gets default acting honors here.)
Breezy to a flyweight fault, in a fashion more careless than carefree, Vernoux's feature doesn't build the sense that much is at stake here, and its comedy is mostly of the banal plucky-oldsters-not-acting-their-age variety.
No MPAA rating. Running time: 1:34.
For recent retiree Caroline, a new life of freedom and opportunity lies before her: time to take care of her children, her husband, and most of all, to finally take care of herself. But while her peers at the local seniors' club pass the time with ceramics and amateur theater, she finds a new hobby of her own between the sheets with the center's computer teacher Julien, a carefree ladies man decades her junior. As Caroline finds herself in the midst a second youth - taking a new lover, living new experiences, breaking the rules, not doing what's expected of her - will her retirement mark the beginning of the end for her marriage, or a new beginning?
'Bright Days Ahead' Movie Review & Movie Trailer