Customer Reviews: Russian Dolls
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Cedric Klapisch's 2005 film LES POUPEES RUSSES is a sequel to his effort of three years before, L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE ("The Spanish Apartment"). It's a very different sort of story. While the first film centered on the zany camaraderie that developed between several European students in Barcelona, LES POUPEES RUSSES focuses on the lovelives of a selected few characters, though Klapisch does briefly reunite the cast of the Spanish apartment. This review assumes that the reader has already seen L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE, a fine film I do recommend.

As LES POUPEES RUSSES opens, Xavier is now thirty, making his living in Paris ghostwriting celebrity autobiographies and scripting soap operas, while the manuscript of his Barcelona novel languishes in neglect. He has gone through numerous relationships since his return from Spain, and wallows in self-pity with Isabelle and Martine, both still alone as well. After an exposition on the misery of these characters, the main plot is set into motion by two events. One is Xavier's commute to London to work on a script with Wendy, now a writer herself. The other is William's engagement to a Russian dancer and move to Saint Petersburg, where he invites all his friends for the wedding. Though I shall avoid spoilers here, I can say that it is through his involvement in these goings-on that Xavier finally finds the stability he was looking for.

Lars, Tobias, Soledad, and Alessando only appear in the Saint Petersburg scenes, and are granted only a few lines each. Though it is rather curious that these characters were brought for probably the most expensive filming in spite of their peripheral roles, the viewer feels no outrage that they get so little screen time. At this point, one's sympathy is entirely with Xavier, Wendy, and William and his Russian bride, and so seeing some of the faces from L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE adds only a nice highlight on the years that have gone by.

For this reviewer, intrigued by the references to the building of a united Europe in L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE, the comments on society and politics in this film were powerful as well. If LES POUPEES RUSSES does not overtly speak of Europe's future, as in the first film when the students question the place of Catalan, the story is nonetheless based on growing changes in European youth. One is increased mobility. That a bunch of old friends from Spain can reunite in Saint Petersburg is a plausible development speaks much of how much young people travel now. Another is multilingualism, dialogues in LES POUPEES RUSSES are in English, French, Spanish, or Russian (with subtitles where necessary). And through the involvement of William's engagement to a Russian, the film shows that European integration goes beyond the borders of merely the EU.

But LES POUPEES RUSSES is also a beautiful love story. I was never content with the other portion of the plot of the first film, where alongside European changes we viewed the story of a young man finding himself. In Barcelona, the twenty-five year-old Xavier was acting like someone several years younger and some of the twists were silly. Here, however, the relationship between Xavier and the women he meets is entirely convincing, and the ending is one of the most satisfying and heartwarming I know of in film.

This reviewer finds himself at around the same point in life as Xavier, and resides in Europe with a similar multilingual and mobile lifestyle. Perhaps that is why the film is so touching for me, but I regrettably can't say what younger viewers in the United States might think of the film. Still, anyone is sure to finds LES POUPEES RUSSES a well-made and entertaining production.
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VINE VOICEon October 2, 2007
Some of the reviewers here try too hard to find a depth that simply isn't in this funny movie. As the sequel to L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE (THE SPANISH APARTMENT), the cast is reunited, but not until the final scenes about the wedding in St. Petersburg between William (Kevin Bishop) and Natasha (Evguenya Obratztsova). The major portion of LES POUPEES RUSSES (RUSSIAN DOLLS) deals with Xavier's (Romain Duris) inability to find success as a serious writer and happiness in his unsuccessful search for true love, Wendy's (Kelly Reilly) involvement in a disastrous relationship with a verbally abusive alcoholic boyfriend, Isabelle's (Cecile de France) troubles with lesbian love interests, and Martine's (Audrey Tautou) problems with past lovers while raising her very young son. Each is looking for true love in all the wrong places. So many Russian Dolls within Russian Dolls. It is a movie that is more mature than L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE and more humorous and enjoyable for having grown up...just like Xavier. I recommend this movie highly.
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on February 6, 2012
A lot of reviewers hate this movie because the main character is an annoying jerk. Some think this is because Romain Duris is a bad actor, but as a matter of fact, it is not because he is a bad actor, it is because he is a great actor for this role that people hate this character. Xavier is an egoist character that starts out as a selfish jerk that wants a girly girl princess for a girlfriend. It's a movie about Xavier's growth as a person, as a functioning adult. As the name suggests, he opens each new layer of his russian doll (his love life, life, etc, whatever you might think it is) thinking he needs more than this, only to discover that there is another layer. At the end, he finds the itty bitty russian doll inside all the other ones and tries to open it yet again in hopes of finding more, and fails. At that point he learns his very valuable lesson.
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RUSSIAN DOLLS ('Les Poupées russes') is the full of love folllowup by Cédric Klapisch to his highly successful 2002 film 'L'Auberge Espagnole', the film that tossed multinational young people together in a Barcelona apartment and watched them interact and create some sense out of the havoc that was their lives. Klapisch has fine comic timing, a sense of spontaneity, and a cast lifted from his previous film - all ingredients for a fine little spin on current relationships. If the film is too much in love with itself, (the self-indulgent multiple split screen viewing and back and forth pacing tends to be a bit cutesy), in the end there is so much fun and wry wisdom to spread around that many of the holes in the script can be forgiven.

The story focuses on event five years after the Barcelona doings in 'L'Auberge Espagnole' and yet as the main character Xavier Rousseau (Romain Duris) narrates the current tale he finds the need for flashbacks to explain current circumstances. William (Kevin Bishop), the bigot from before who labeled roommate Tobias (Barnaby Metschurat) as a Nazi, has smoothed out a bit and in fact has found love in a Russian girl Natacha (Evguenya Obraztsova), a Russian ballet dancer who lives in St. Petersburg and the current story is supposed to be about their wedding in St. Petersburg which will also be a reunion for all the roommates from Barcelona. Xavier is a writer who is forced to be a ghostwriter for celebrities who want to publish memoirs because he has difficulty writing a silly television love series and is stuck in his writing of his own novel. He cannot keep relationships (but then very few in this group of friends can) and he teeters between his allegiance to his ex Martine (Audrey Tautou), while moving in on one of the celebrity interviewees Celia (Lucy Gordon). He is warned by his lesbian roommate Isabelle (Cécile De France) about his wanton ways but Xavier uses Isabelle as cover for his 98-year-old grandfather (Pierre Gérald), who insists he marry. Xavier toys with a beautiful black girl Kassia (Aïssa Maïga) and is rejected, and just about the time when Xavier feels as though he will never find the right girl ('You just keep opening them like Russian nested dolls hoping that the one in the center will be your choice'), his script is picked up by BBC and he flies to London to work with Wendy (Kelly Reilly - William's attractive sister, unsuccessful in finding a decent mate) and voila! The rest of the intrigue is best left to the viewer: it does become complicated and multilingual and hilarious...and touching.

Weaving all the cast members form his first film into the resolution of the second film proves to have some problems in continuity, but then this is not great writing nor was it meant to be. This is French comedy in fine form and is a thoroughly entertaining film and the chance to watch some beautiful people display how crazy relationships today have become. Grady Harp, November 06
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on March 26, 2015
Excellent film. It's the second in a trilogy of films following a group of young (originally) people who meet and cohabit an apartment in Barcelona. I stumbled onto the first film by accident, "L'Auberge Espagnole" or "The Spanish Apartment" (2002). This film follows up several years later. There is a third which I have ordered but not yet watched called "The Chinese Puzzle" (2013).

This is a charming, very engaging film with particularly great performances by Kelly Reilly, Romain Duris, Cecile De France and Audrey Tautou. The same can be said for the first film. I'm looking forward to seeing what is new in The Chinese Puzzle. I completely recommend both the first two films of this trilogy without any reservation at all.
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on February 20, 2015
Witty, urbane -- if slight -- European romantic comedy. It is more enjoyable probably for those who have seen "The Spanish Apartment," the first film in the trilogy that tells the story of a young Frenchman who is moving through life and love at loose ends. Romain Duris is appealing enough as the young man, but one has to wonder how a guy who is not really good looking, not brilliant, not rich is attracting so much high-toned female attention. But such is life. It's a trifle, but enjoy.
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on May 23, 2015
I am a Francophile. This movie features a self-centered man-boy who abuses women. The language used is awful, although not untypical. Be glad that it is not all translated, and that the translations are not literal. France and the French are much nicer than shown here. Well, maybe except Paris.
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on August 1, 2015
If you watched L' Auberge Spagnol, then you have to watch Russian Dolls as it is the second part of the series that finishes with Chinese Puzzle. These comedies are so modern, fresh and witty, that you will regret only that there is not a 4th installment (so far).
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In anticipation of seeing the latest installment in this franchise, 2013's "Chinese Puzzle", I decided to re-watch the first two movies, the 2002 "L'auberge espagnol" and this one. I hadn't seen either of them since they first came out, and was curious to see how well they'd stand up after all these years.

"Russian Dolls" (2005 release from France; 120 min.; original title "Les poupées russes") takes place 5 years after the first movie. Our main man, Xavier, is now approaching 30, and his life is as unsettled as ever. As the movie opens, we see the entire gang of Barcelona getting together for a wedding in St. Petersburg, Russia (we don't know whose wedding), and then in a flashback, Xavier recounts the story of how it all came to this. Given that this is a plot-heavy movie, to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll really want to see for yourself how it all unfolds.

Couple of comments: the first movie was an unexpected box office bonanza in Europe (and did quite well also in the US at the art-house theater circuit), so it's not a surprise that writer-director Cédric Klapisch came up with the idea for a sequel. Xavier, played by the charming Romain Duris carries this movie on his back, and very well so. The great thing is that Klapisch has matured the Xavier character and exposes us to him as a real person, with real flaws. It would've been so much easier to avoid those complications, as Xavier, warts and all, is a very likeable character, but it adds to the depth (and the enjoyment) of the movie. Unlike the first movie, when Wendy (played by British actress Kelly Reilly) was barely on the radar screen, she gets a huge, and frankly pivotal, role in the movie. Also interesting is that her brother William (played by Kevin Bishop), who was such an unlikeable character in the first movie, gets an almost complete transformation in this. The movie takes places in Paris, London, and St. Petersburg, and as such it becomes a very enjoyable travelogue for those cities, and make you want to visit these places.

Bottom line: I really enjoyed seeing "Russian Dolls" again after all these years, although I still feel that it doesn't quite capture the magic that was the first movie. If, on the other hand, you haven't seen this, by all means, check it out, I think you will enjoy it quite a bit (but make sure you see "L'auberge espagnol" first).
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on January 10, 2010
The open life style of these young well educated Europeans is
far from traditional. Xavier is shown sleeping around
and having an openly lesbian best friend-room mate.
They appear to be looking in every place possible for
"LOVE" as if that were more important than anything else in life.
Most ordinary people who would try to live like this would end up in disaster?!
As touching and well written as the script may be,
it is also a prescription for social problems.
Western society seems to be stretching the edges of moral decay
and encouraging the young on a road that may not end
in anyone being happy or healthy?
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