Tirard unwinds the action slow and steady, which makes for a slackly paced first hour that all but destroys the movie. Hang in and you'll see the method in this seemingly perverse strategy, as the young blade grows a passion for the highly strung, cultivated lady of the house, beautifully played by Europe's reigning queen of barely suppressed hysteria, Laura Morante.
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Less forgivably, the movie is dull.
Yet the film, directed by Laurent Tirard, has something. To be exact, it has Fabrice Luchini and Laura Morante, as M. and Mme. Jourdain.
The actors elevate what might have been fluff into a genuinely moving tale, and the action is so much fun that it doesn't even matter if you've seen Molière's plays before.
While none of this is meant to be taken seriously, the premise demeans Moliere's great achievement.
The Great Playwrights for Dummies series that began with "Shakespeare in Love" continues with Molière, a French clone of that grating and smarmy Best Picture winner.
Romance, creativity, subterfuge and repartee are among the pleasures to be had in Moliere, a consistently diverting, bittersweet costumer.
As Molière, Romain Duris is frisky and, playing the wife of his benefactor, Laura Morante proves once again that she is one of the most intelligent and attractive actresses in the world.
A Molière this good deserves a more substantive portrait, but this one will do for now.