Thursday 4 November 2010

Movie Review: Couples Retreat (2009)

Four couples head for a vacation resort specializing in relationship therapy and mending; they discover more about themselves than they cared to know. Couples Retreat is a generally enjoyable modern couplehood comedy, sabotaged by an ending that is in equal measures lame and rushed.

Dave (Vince Vaughn) and his wife Ronnie (Malin Akerman) seem to have a steady marriage, but they discover that they are living almost separate lives. Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) have long since stopped being intimate, and generally cannot stand being with each other. Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are ready to get a divorce, their marriage strained to the breaking point by their inability to conceive. And Shane (Faizon Love) recently did divorce after a long marriage, and is in a new relationship with a 20 year old from an entirely different generation.

Monsieur Marcel is the self-appointed relationship guru at the Eden resort, and Jean Reno has a lot of fun taking the role way over the top. He is helped by Peter Serafinowicz as the uppity British resort manager whose main function is to irritate the men, and Carlos Ponce as the drippy yoga instructor with the beefcake pin-up body whose main function is to tantalize the women.

After a patient build-up to flesh out the characters and a meaty middle to highlight the difficulties in each relationship, the film falls apart in its final few minutes, with a poorly planned and badly executed scramble to provide happy endings for everyone. Any accumulated good-will towards meaningful relationship examination is squandered in an overdose of sugar to satisfy Hollywood's obese relationship with cheerful wrap-ups, no matter how grotesque.

Nevertheless, Couples Retreat, filmed mostly in Bora Bora, benefits from some terrific postcard-quality resort locations, and looks as lush as any dream or imagined vacation. The four couples and the actors portraying them are close enough to real, with believable eccentricities to maintain touch with authenticity. There are good comic moments, some witty dialogue, and a refreshing avoidance of the worst cliches, until the very end.

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