Well, the French sure love their sex. One could argue that they love it so much that, as a people, they’re entitled to make endless pictures like FOUR LOVERS, one more positively flavored foray into polyamory – think “open marriage” and you pretty much get the picture – but one would hope that, eventually, they’ll bring something new to the table. (Here’s a tip: if it’s what you did in high school or college relationships – multiple partners at a time – then it quite possibly isn’t what you should be doing in a truly adult relationship.) I don’t mean to pick on them culturally, and I’m certainly not intending to throw stones, either. I guess it’s just that I don’t see a lot of other nations clamoring to try to lead the world in ‘respectable and civilized sexual debauchery.’ Do you?
From the packaging (mostly because I don’t have the strength to write this myself while ignoring some of my cynicism): “In this sexy, French romantic drama, two couples decide to explore the boundaries of their relationships by swapping partners. What starts as fun, free-spirited ménage-a-4 experimentation full of sleepovers, sharing vacations, and dinner parties soon turns into a hotbed of desire, anger, and confusion. As their arrangement leads them down an increasingly surprising and provocative path, the lovers begin to question their personal choices and lifestyles, leading to consequences none of them could foresee.”
Now, honestly, there isn’t all that much ‘romance’ and ‘free-spirited ménage-a-4 experimentation’ in here – certainly not so much that it should’ve made the packaging materials. That is, unless there’s another cut of this film available somewhere, I didn’t see all that much in here. What there is is two couples who decide that their marriages are better if they can have multiple partners. There’s something to be said for the friendships that develop out of necessity in this story – it becomes clear than neither husband is great at responding to his wife’s emotional needs, and it becomes pretty clear that neither is all that exceptional at fulfilling their physical wants, either – and, if anything, that’s a reasonable lesson to be learned from all of this. Still, when all is said and done, this is a film we’ve seen hundreds of times before – especially from the French – who must believe they have a God-given talent to explore this theme to its fullest until Time itself comes crashing to an end.
FOUR LOVERS is produced by Why Not U.S., Why Not Productions, Canal+, and a whole host of others (please check IMDB if you’re interested). DVD distribution (stateside) is being handled through Oscilloscope Laboratories. The DVD looks and sounds just fine, nothing exceptional. I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t mention that FOUR LOVERS was an Official Selection to the Venice Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival, and the Rendez-vous French Film Festival. The disc has a respectable number of special features, including deleted scenes (not much to see), the film trailer, and two archival films exploring similar themes from the Oscilloscope vault.
MILDLY RECOMMENDED, though it’s much of the same. To be perfectly frank, there’s nothing revelatory about FOUR LOVERS. It has a lot of the same French attitudes when it comes to sex and fidelity (which is to say “plenty of sex” and “fidelity is apparently overrated when it comes to happiness”), and it all ends as happily or unhappily as one would expect from this weird kind of open & somewhat swinging married lifestyle. While the performances are fine and the direction appears capable, there’s just not all that much to respond to here. Audiences already knew the overwhelming “it is what it is” moral of the story before the picture began, so there’s nothing ventured, nothing gained at its expense.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the good folks at Oscilloscope Laboratories provided me with a DVD screener of FOUR LOVERS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.