Avenue Montaigne

This light-hearted concoction from France is nevertheless smart and uncondescending. A perky young lady named Jessica (an actress with the unbelievable moniker of Cecile De France) takes a job as a waitress at a bustling cafe in Paris that just happens to be across the street from an enormous performing arts complex. Thus she winds up insinuating herself into the lives of three people who are each having their own "opening night jitters" for the same upcoming evening: a classical pianist who is tiring of the stuffy crowds that come to his concerts, an insanely insecure television soap actress appearing in a stage comedy, and an aging millionaire who has decided to auction off his precious art collection.

Sort of an Amélie without the visual razzle-dazzle, Avenue Montaigne (the direct translation of its original French title, Orchestra Seats, is more evocative) charms and amuses without asking for much in return. It's nice to see so many fresh faces (at least to these American eyes; the cast is made up of seasoned professionals from French TV and cinema, with the sole exception of US director Sydney Pollack, playing a fictional American filmmaker seeking a star for his biopic of Simone de Beauvoir) and Paris is Paris, neither glorified nor demystified.

The film is predictable perhaps only to someone familiar with mainstream contemporary French cinema, but at a time when most foreign and independent releases in American theatres have become sadistic, depressing experiences, Avenue Montaigne offers a pleasant break.