Film Review: Romantics Anonymous (2010)

Romantics Anonymous is a delectable Belgian-French rom-com that follows the blossoming love of two eccentric, socially awkward and romantically hampered individuals. All this in the realm of a chocolate factory.

Jean-René Van Den Hugde (Benoît Poelvoorde) owns and runs the family chocolate business and regularly sees a shrink for his debilitating social anxieties. He shrinks from human contact and always carries with him a briefcase of extra shirts since any social interactions cause him to sweat profusely. The chocolate factory is on the brink of bankruptcy under his eccentric leadership.

Angélique Delange (Isabelle Carré) is a closet chocolatier of rare and exceptional talent, who quite literally faints in the face of public performance. Through discussions with her support group for the socially inhibited, we learn that she never finished her training, crippled as she was by her performance anxieties.

But a kindly teacher and mentor, Mr. Mercier, recognized her talent and hired her as the secret chocolatier for his shop. With the attention focused on an apparent hermit chocolatier living the mountains, Angélique wowed one and all with her creations, until Mr. Mercier’s death and the closure of his shop. She now needs a new job.

Jean-René and Angélique and a Love of Chocolate

Angélique answers an ad for a position at Jean-René’s chocolate factory. They take an instant and awkward liking to one another, and he hires her on the spot. But the position is not for a chocolatier, as Angélique quickly finds out, but rather as a sales rep, hitting the streets and the shops to sell the wares. For the performance-shy Angélique, this is a huge hurdle. Yet, armed with her theme song from The Sound of Music, “I Have Confidence,” she hits the streets to talk and hawk chocolate. It’s a topic that gets this shy, tongue-tied woman eloquently effusing.

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Jean-René’s psychiatrist begins challenging him to actively break out of his comfort zone, giving Jean-René little jobs to do: ask a woman on a date, touch another human being, share something with another, engage in little ways with the world around him. Sweating and anxious, Jean-René sets out to complete these tasks.

He invites Angélique out on a date, and the resulting first date is extraordinarily awkward, hilarious and downright disastrous. The conversation is incredibly stilted, but we, the audience, know that if they just started talking about chocolate, the words and passions would flow out of both of them.

And indeed, when they finally do talk chocolate, the chemistry is oozingly good. Hoping to help save the factory, Angélique claims to have connections to the renowned hermit of Mr. Mercier’s (which is to say herself). And through an elaborate ruse of webcams and headsets, Angélique pretends to be in contact with the hermit, who then aids the factory’s chocolatiers in making a new and improved series of chocolates.

Will Angélique finally drop the hermit ruse and stand proudly and publicly by her own work? Can Jean-René stop dashing off in panic after every intimate moment? Can these two allow themselves to be vulnerable enough and open enough to let another in, to love and allow themselves to be loved? Will growing confidence finally quash debilitating timidity? And can they save the chocolate factory?

Have the Chocolate Ready

Romantics Anonymous is a lovely film, fun, funny, beautifully filmed, with a feel of Old Hollywood. Our leads are so classically and timelessly attired, that you sometimes feel transported back to the ‘30s and ‘40s, although the story is taking place in the present day. The leads have great chemistry and are very relatable in their off-beat, quirky way. The story has such appeal that it has recently been turned into a London musical, which has been playing at Shakespeare’s Globe – to rave reviews. And there is indeed much to rave about and enjoy in Romantics Anonymous. See it. But, be warned; you’ll be craving chocolate afterward.

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Content Note: Rated PG-13 for innuendos and one suggestive lovemaking scene (with no skin or lingering detail shots).

Where to Watch: You can find Romantics Anonymous on DVD.


Photo Credit: Pan-Européenne.

OVERALL RATING

Four corset rating

“Hello, Gorgeous.”

ROMANCE RATING

four heart rating

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

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