(Les Ambitiuex)

AMBITIOUS (LES AMBITIUEX) is a romantic comedy about struggling
writer Julien Demarsay (Éric Caravaca) and his relationship with a slightly
neurotic fiction editor Judith Zahn (Karin Viard). The brainchild of
writer-director Catherine Corsini and her collaborator Cédric Kahn, the film is
an amusing, if somewhat uneven, tale of literary aspirations, intellectual theft,
and jealousy.

Julien owns and operates a bookstore and has written a novel that is based
on life in the provincial town in which he lives. He has had the luck of
befriending a publishing magnate's son (Renan Carteaux) who reads a draft
of the book. Thanks to that break, Julien finds himself traveling to Paris to
meet with Judith. On the day of his arrival, Judith has been avoiding a woman
who has camped out at her office. This is her stepmother who delivers a box
of papers belonging to Judith's late father, a journalist and writer whose life is
something of a mystery to the editor. She has been told that her father died in
an asylum while his widow informs her he was killed in Latin America.
Conflicted, Judith refuses to open the box. Nor does she see Julien; instead
she has her assistant pose as her to inform him that they are not interested in
his book. Thanks to a mishap with a bathroom door, Julien discovers that he
did not meet the real Judith Zahn and confronts her outside the building.

She insists he drive her to the theater while they discuss his book (which she
pointedly has not read). Leaving the box of her father's papers in his car, she
meets up with Julien after the theater and the pair spend the night together.
When she insist he sleep on the couch, Julien's curiosity leads him to open the
box and he begins to read the contents. Soon, he has sold the bookshop and
relocated to Paris to begin working on a novel based on the life of Judith's
father -- unbeknownst to Judith. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out
that his decision to use the material will create a rift between them. Just how
Judith deals with what she perceives as a betrayal and its repercussions form
the climax of the film.

Viard and Caravaca are fine as the mismatched lovers, although she has
been directed to be a bit shrill and over-emotive in a couple of scenes. The
secondary character of Simon (Gilles Cohen), an out of work actor and school
friend of Julien's, is more of a plot point than a character; he doesn't feel
integral to the story and his confrontation with Judith is more creepy than it is
meant to be. The script doesn't traffic too much in psychology, merely
skimming the surface of the characters and their motivations. If it weren't for
the charm of the two leads, the whole film would easily have collapsed or
become totally insufferable. One of the basic problems of
the filmmaker chose not to take her title to heart and instead took a less than
complex approach to the material.

Rating:                B-
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
Éric Caravaca  as Julien
and Karin Viard as Judith
Ambitious / Les ambitieux
Directed by Catherine
Corsini, 2006; 90m

Photo Credit:
© Marion Stalens /
© Nathalie Eno