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Decalage Horaire / Jet Lag


Can a vain, luxury-loving beautician in flight from an abusive husband find happiness with a dour, hound-dog faced manufacturer of frozen foods who suffers from crippling panic attacks? That's the less-than-burning question posed by ''Jet Lag,'' a peppy romantic trifle from France that rises above the mundane on the strength of its beautifully detailed lead performances.

''Jet Lag'' tells the sort of meet-cute story that, were it remade in Hollywood -- and let us fervently hope that it's not -- would most likely emerge as a dragged-out skit dripping with icky false emotion. Because it's French (directed by Danièle Thompson) and stars actors of the caliber of Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno, its ready-made format is largely mitigated by a bracing honesty about human foibles and how it's often each other's little quirks that drive couples crazy. The movie's unlikely potential sweethearts, Rose (Ms. Binoche) and Félix (Mr. Reno) converge at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris during one of those air traffic nightmares in which bad weather and labor problems combine to create an infuriating bottleneck. Rose is so flustered by the delay in her flight to Acapulco that she accidentally flushes her cellphone down the toilet and borrows the nearest one handy, from Félix, a glum stranger bound for Munich.

''Jet Lag,'' which opens today in New York and Los Angeles, couldn't have been made before the era of the cellphone. Once the two stranded passengers decide (for the sake of convenience) to share a hotel room for the night, the beeps, crossed signals and static of cellphone communication determine the movie's nervous pulse.

The two stars go a long way toward redeeming the artificiality of the concept with their nuanced, unsentimental performances. Ms. Binoche's Rose is maddeningly meticulous about her appearance, and the camera studies her every move as she applies her cosmetic mask and fixes her hair. But if Rose's attention to surfaces implies an underlying superficiality, she also takes a bubbly, instinctive pleasure in life. It's a measure of Ms. Binoche's innate radiance that when her character finally appears without makeup, she is even more beautiful.

Mr. Reno's Félix, who has dark circles under eyes that gaze out at the world with a weary foreboding, has lost the ability to enjoy himself, if indeed he ever possessed it. His panic attacks, which resemble heart attacks, are frequent and severe and leave him doubled over on the floor, gasping in terror. But Félix is also an inspired chef who loves to cook.

The screenplay (by the director and Christopher Thompson) creates high-resolution portraits of this odd couple who grow fonder of each other despite enough petty irritations and misunderstandings to suggest a fundamental oil-and-water incompatibility. But in the movie's optimistic view, it's possible for personalities this dissimilar to nurture each other in unexpected ways. To the film's credit, it leaves you believing that these two have a chance to follow the bumpy road to love all the way to a happy ending, or at least a comfortable accommodation.
''Jet Lag'' is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has sexual situations and some nudity.
Date Added: 10/20/2012 by jan-jaque moneau
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