The release of Laurent Tirard’s Molière, in close proximity to the U.S. arrival of Christophe Honore’s Dans Paris, should provide further proof that the inexplicably in-demand Romain Duris is one of the most smug, unresourceful, unsurprising, and thoroughly infuriating actors to emerge in recent memory. Dans Paris is one brand of prestigiously awful screen acting: precious, grandiose brooding, with attendant beard and dark-rimmed eyes to give the proper impression of seriousness. Molière. a flouncy 17th-century costume comedy, would seem on the surface more properly suited to Duris’s showy, sharply accented performance style—he gets to don a flowing musketeer mane and moustache, and wryly dissemble his way through a bevy of ostensibly comic misunderstandings. But comic or dramatic, crestfallen or roguish, he’s a fussy, preening screen presence who wheedles and ingratiates himself to the camera wherever the tiniest fillip of a gesture might suffice.
The film fits into the speculative biographical fiction genre—a la Shakespeare in Love, as virtually no critic has failed to observe—taking place within a gray area in Molière’s actual biography, imagining the 22-year-old playwright’s misadventures while running amok in 1640s Paris. Click here to read the rest of Nick Pinkerton’s review of Molière.