It’s generally a bad idea to set film stories for extended time in airports. Those winged wheezers “Airport” and “The V.I.P.s” come to mind, then rapidly fly out of it. But “Jet Lag” has some French style to pull this off, at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle, with some other key moments at a nearby Hilton hotel. Mostly it has two highly enjoyable stars, Jean Reno and Juliette Binoche.
Binoche is Rose, an emotional beautician who piles too much artificial beauty on her face. When she cleans it off, it’s liberating, because suddenly she is la belle Binoche.
Reno plays Felix, a former chef, flying around for his line of gourmet frozen foods; he’s a nervous mess because he hates the jet-lagged life of “mediocrity mixed with complication.”
Though highly reliant on cell phones, Daniele Thompson’s film is a soft ring of protest against the modern hustle of complicated mediocrity. The two busy, bothered people meet at the airport during a big strike, can’t leave, abrade each other (she’s fleeing a violently macho lover, played in a single scene by Sergi Lopez) and will, of course, keep missing flights.
This souffle rises at the kitchen of the hotel (however much you admire De Gaulle, you’re glad to exit his airport).
And this is entirely a function of sly, verbally quick scripting and the lovably amusing convergence of Binoche, one of France’s gifts to the world, and Reno, the urbane big charmer with the beak nose.
Reno is one of the big stars in Europe who will become only a minor star here because he has only glancing interest in Hollywood, and because his films (far as I can tell, given holes in local release of his work) are not the kind that build a major critical reputation.
He has perhaps never been more adroitly engaging — his masculinity has a relaxed, ironic grace — and Binoche rises triumphantly from the early burden of excessive makeup. “Jet Lag” flies in as a very soft bird, but its feathers are pleasing.
David Elliott is the movie critic of The San Diego Union-Tribune. © 2003 by the Copley News Service.