June 3rd, 2022
STARRING: ROMAIN DURIS, EMMA MACKEY, PIERRE DELADONCHAMPS
DIRECTED BY: MARTIN BOURBOULON
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
I have never seen the Eiffel tower in person. I’ve never been to Paris, France, but if I ever get the chance I will be able to tell friends that I’ve seen a movie about the architect Gustave Eiffel. Sadly, that won’t be an impressive statement, as the biopic of the man is far from being impressive. Directed by Martin Bourboulon, the story captures the life of Eiffel in 1889, at the start of his creation, with the Paris World Fair soon approaching, and the world watching what he could come up with next. Balancing between his struggle to make his creation come to life and the return of a past lover is the major focus, in a film that has the look of the time, but fails to grasp who the man truly was. As a man Gustave Eiffel accomplished things worthy of praise, but his biopic focuses on a half-baked romance, forgetting to tell the story of a towering person.
The only way I could find a comparative description for Eiffel is that it takes a similar approach as James Cameron’s Titanic, only there is no disaster leaving 1,500 people dead. It does however try to balance the politics and struggle of getting the large tower built and Eiffel’s missed opportunity of love. We first see Eiffel (played here by the always good Romain Duris) accepting awards and praise for his gift to the United States, the Statue of Liberty. During this period the constant question from others was what would Eiffel do next, with his answer often being his hope to create the first subway for the people of Paris. That of course is not what others have in mind, finding the project to be too tasking for the people, and not a visual representation to celebrate the 1889 fair. That leads him to the tower, where a voting system is put in place, consisting of various other sculpture and architectural creations, voted on by distinguished individuals, that ultimately land on the powerful tower of Eiffel.
The late third act stuff is where the actual erection of the tower comes into play, an incredibly difficult accomplishment, where the details of digging underground, next to the river Seine would be an incredibly arduous feat. But all of that is relatively a footnote, as director Martin Bourboulon and the screenplay by Caroline Bongrand is more focused on Eiffel’s relationship with Adrienne (the exquisite Emma Mackey from Death on the Nile). It started as two lovers going against tradition, he was a hard working bridge builder, while she is a wealthy debutant, and when her father does not approve of their love, they of course go against his will. That is until she leaves Eiffel high and dry, with pain in his heart, which he turns into his creative inspiration. It’s when they catch up where the old flame is ignited, but only this time Adrienne is married to journalist Antoine de Restac (Pierre Deladonchamps), and now they must fight the temptation that is obviously still ripe with passion.
One of the major problems with how Eiffel is handled is that Bourboulon seems to be molding the reality to fit a cliched love story such as The Notebook. By the time Eiffel and Adrienne meet again, Eiffel has already three children, and has lost his wife to disease. Yet, you would think he was nearly glad that his first wife had passed, never mentioning her, reflecting, or sharing time with his children. It’s possible that Eiffel was consumed in his work- we see plenty of that- but there’s a neglect to half of this man’s life. Those cliched beats of romance overshadow everything and it’s not nearly enough to work as a good movie.
There’s a bit to appreciate about the craft, where the costumes, sets, and designs look official, setting the time and place. The performances are fine as well, but fine is not good enough to help a stale script, that tells a story of a man from a small fraction of who he was. It reminded me a bit of Rosamund Pike’s approach in the Marie Curie film Radioactive, which had a great performance from her, but couldn’t do justice to the amazing women she portrayed. The same goes for Eiffel. He raised up towers that stand the test of time but his movie will quickly and sadly be forgotten.
EIFFEL IS NOW PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE TO RENT ON DEMAND
Written by: Leo Brady