“Girl on a Bicycle” is a featherweight Paris romance that’s like that old Euro-joke about who runs heaven and hell.
Heaven, it goes, is “where the police are British, the cooks French, the mechanics German, the lovers Italian, and it is all organized and run by the Swiss.” Hell has German police, British cooks, Swiss lovers, French mechanics and is organized and run by Italians.
The Paris of “Girl on a Bicycle” has an Italian tour guide (and lover), a German stewardess (and lover), a ditzy French model (and mother) and an Irish tour guide, cynic and sometime lover.
They’re all thrown together for a romantic farce that only rarely measures up to its lighter-than-air premise. Passions collide, feelings are hurt, wrong conclusions are leaped to and arguments are had – in the multiple languages of this cosmopolitan city. Fortunately, the lingua franca of this Paris is English, the only language they all speak and understand well enough to fall back on. Unfortunately, the lack of a language barrier doesn’t help.
Paolo (Vincenzo Amato) is an Romano-centric tour bus driver who regales tourists with his take on the Arc de Triomphe, among other attractions.
Of course, “If you want to see a really beautiful arch, you must go to Italy.”
Greta (Nora Tschirner) is his longtime German stewardess girlfriend, the woman he proposes to after three years. She’s even willing to indulge his kinky side, sexually.
Paddy Considine plays Paolo’s tour bus-driving pal, Derek. He’s the guy Paolo confesses his sudden infatuation with this beauty he keeps seeing, on a bicycle, on his bus route. Cecile (Louise Monot) is a clumsy but gorgeous and uninhibited model. And Derek’s advice to Paolo – “Just talk to her,” to get her out of his system – is nothing but trouble.
Next thing we know, Paolo’s run over her with his bus and finds himself caring for the injured Cecile and her two bambinos, little kids who mistake him for their father. Next thing after that, Greta is confiding her suspicions to the seductive pilot Francoise, who explains men to her:
“Italian men think that ‘Fidelity’ is the name of the woman who lives across the hall.”
Screenwriter (“The Legend of Bagger Vance”) and sometime writer-director (“Don Juan DeMarco”) Jeremy Leven trots out national cliches like this by the bushel basketful. The Irishman sings in bars in his off hours, the martinet running Cecile’s bath soap photo shoot is a Brit, and so on.
The comic irony in Paolo’s having to be the organized one, getting the kids off to school, or in the German Greta being a true romantic, is all that passes for depth here. Cecile is more a lovely plot device than a character, as is the ever-explaining, always unshaven Francoise (Stephane Debac).
“I just wanted to make a memory,” Paolo says at one point, a goal most film romances share. But with this “Girl” and her bicycle, the cute bits, rare laugh-out-loud moments, occasionally zippy lines and limply obvious farcical predicaments are never more than instantly forgettable.
“Girl on a Bicycle” opens Friday in the Screening Room Cinema Cafe (3131 Sheridan Drive, Amherst). Screenings are at 9:15 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22; 5 p.m. Sunday; and 7:30 p.m. next Thursday.
GIRL ON A BICYCLE
Starring: Vincenzo Amato, Nora Tschirner, Paddy Considine
Director: Jeremy Leven
Running time: 101 minutes
Rating: R for language, some sexuality and nudity.
The Lowdown: An engaged Italian who drives a Parisian tour bus falls for a woman he sees riding a bike.