Following up, and in many ways repeating, his 2001 film My Wife Is An Actress, writer-director-star Yvan Attal again proves he knows how to apply a lot of first-rate camerawork and compelling acting to material that doesn't really deserve it. He has great reserves of talent as an actor and director, but Attal the leading man and Attal the auteur should consider firing their screenwriter. Consider a remarkable moment from early in his new Happily Ever After: Charlotte Gainsbourg—Attal's real-life wife, and here, the unhappy wife of his upscale car-dealer protagonist—slips into a reverie in the middle of a Paris record store as she listens to Radiohead's "Creep." When a handsome man (Johnny Depp, in a cameo) slides next to her, she tries to hide her attraction. But the drama of the song and the intensity of the moment won't let her rest. He leaves. She hesitates, then follows, the sound of "Creep" trailing behind her, then fizzling out and blending with other music as she finds Depp, only to exchange wordless nods over the coincidence of their buying the same CD.
It's a great little short unto itself, and, as with Actress, Attal fills Happily Ever After with comparable moments. But on the whole, the film is a shallow, shrill, and all-too-familiar marital roundelay in which Attal has an affair for no good reason, his best friend Alain Chabat quarrels with wife Emmanuelle Seigner (a crude parody of a feminist), and their pal Alain Cohen gets laid a lot but pines for the calm of marriage. Happily Ever After is filled with moments and observations drawn as often from Woody Allen movies as from life, and after a while, even the oases of style stop making any difference. There is one final perfect moment, however: Late in the film, the leading characters all attend a movie where an audience member asks them to quit nattering on about sex and relationships already. Coincidence or self-parody, it's one of the few lines that rings true.