A Little Romance
How you react to this film will depend on your tolerance for sweetness. I’ve got a fairly high sugar index, despite being diabetic. I loved this when it first came out and now, thirty-four years later, though I have in some ways soured on many things, I can still love a sweet little love story. Which is what it is, exactly as the title days. I believe it holds up well.
This was Diane Lane’s first movie role. She was fourteen, and cute as can be. It was one of Lord Larry Olivier’s last. It also stars a French young boy named Thelonious Bernard, who only made one more movie before retiring from show biz. He’s now a dentist.
The story concerns Daniel, a hustling sort of kid with a father who drives a taxi, and Lauren, an American girl living in Paris while her parents (Sally Kellerman and Arthur Hill) are working there. Daniel has learned English by watching films, and we see hilarious scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (which this movie’s director, George Roy Hill, also helmed) and True Grit, with Redford, Newman, and John Wayne speaking fluent French, and subtitles that are never quite right. (In the famous confrontation with Ned Pepper and his gang, after being insulted, John Wayne rears back and shouts the immortal line, in subtitles: “You monkey! I suggest you defend yourself!” Whoa, wait a minute! The actual line was, as any film buff knows: “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!”) (Why they were showing films dubbed in French and subtitled in English is something I try not to worry about too much. It was funny.)
Lauren’s mom is a horror show, chiding Lauren for always having her nose in a book. “Why don’t you watch some television?” Ugh. Mom is having a flirtatious relationship with the director of a movie shooting in the Louvre. He is a total asshole. “What do you mean, I can’t break one lousy mirror?” Bernard is there on a field trip, sees Broderick Crawford (playing himself), and then sneaks away and encounters Lauren, and a romance is born. Mom is, of course, horrified by and totally opposed to Lauren’s love for “that filthy French boy.” The stepfather, the only adult level head in the movie and a man deeply sympathetic to Lauren, decides they have to go home to …. Houston. “Houston?” Sally says. “Houston? It’s just so … Houston!”
The two have met Laurence Olivier, a faux boulevardier a la Maurice Chevalier, who is actually a pickpocket. They make a lot of money at the racetrack using Daniel’s handicapping skills and Lauren’s use of Daddy’s computer, and set off for Venice. Olivier has told them of a legend (which he entirely made up, as he did the rest of his glamorous life) that if two people kiss under the Bridge of Sighs at sundown when the bells of the Campanile are tolling, their love will last forever. Lauren is very, very bright (as is Daniel), and deeply romantic. She wants to do that, so that when she leaves France they will never forget each other.
Well, you don’t get any extra points for figuring out if they make it or not. With many misadventures, they accomplish their mission. And I must be deeply romantic, too, because it all moved me. Mostly it is the attractiveness and smarts of the two young people. Lord Larry overacts outrageously, but I was mostly able to ignore that. Like I said, you’ll probably either love it or want to vomit.