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Girl on a Bicycle

Given the Screening Room’s fondness for programming cult classics along with otherwise-unseen recent foreign movies, it’s fair to warn you not to confuse this comedy with Girl on a Motorcycle, the 1968 movie in which Marianne Faithful zips around a psychedelic dreamscape wearing nothing but a fleece-lined black leather jumpsuit. (When she finally finds her lover, Alain Delon, she tells him, “Peel me.”)

Girl on a Bicycle does have its heart in the cinema of the 1960s, but of a less lurid variety. Set in a postcard-pretty Paris, it’s a polyglot rom-com that gets a fair amount of mileage out of the different nationalities and native languages of its main cast (all of whom default to English).

Paolo (Vincenzo Amato, who looks like a cross between Joaquin Phoenix and a young Tom Hanks) is an Italian who drives a Paris tour bus, never missing an opportunity to boast to his passengers how superior Italian culture is to French. He is in love with a German stewardess, Greta (Nora Tschirner), and after three years of dating works up the nerve to propose to her. He becomes obsessed with a French model, Cécile (Louise Monot), who he always sees riding her bike near his bus. When he accidentally hits her, he finds himself honor-bound to care for her as she recuperates, along with her two young children.

Girl on a Bicycle was written and directed by Jeremy Leven, a clinical psychologist who turned to screenwriting late in life. After an inauspicious start with the Harvey and Bob Weinstein directed Playing for Keeps, he had more luck with The Notebook, My Sister’s Keeper, and The Legend of Bagger Vance, and made his directorial debut with the Johnny Depp vehicle Don Juan DeMarco. This one resonates of numerous other American comedies of the 1960s that were set in Paris, like Irma La Douce (Paolo is always getting out of bed while exhausted in order to hide his double life from his fiancée) and Boeing Boeing (Greta is the kind of stewardess that only seems to exist in sexy fantasies). It’s less salacious than those: Paolo is not a playboy but a sincere fellow trying to do the right thing. The film is never as funny as you hope it will be after a strong opening, but it’s consistently pleasant and finds a satisfying way to wrap up it’s impossible conflict.

Watch the trailer for Girl on a Bicycle

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