Review by Daniel Rester
Mood Indigo, the latest from writer-director Michel Gondry, is a film that is easy to admire but hard to love. The French filmmaker, perhaps best known for the amazing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), has fashioned a beautiful mess with Indigo. That isn’t such a surprise with Gondry’s unique style, but unfortunately the results are not as appealing as they usually are this time around.
Indigo is based on the 1947 novel Froth on the Daydream by Boris Vian. The film follows Colin (Romain Duris), a rich inventor who falls in love with a woman named Chloe (Audrey Tautou). The two get married, but Chloe becomes sick after they go on their honeymoon. As her condition deteriorates, Colin struggles with seeing his wife fall into such illness.
Sounds like it could be emotionally heavy, huh? Well it’s not. Gondry’s film certainly sets moods with his style to his sweet little story, but there isn’t enough substance to engage on a personal level. Unlike something like Spotless Mind, the pathos, thought-provoking ideas, and rich characters simply aren’t there. What’s left is a stunning piece of art with a hollow center that brings it down.
Gondry’s film is inventive and offbeat in its visual touches. The director is known for favoring things like stop-motion animation and colorful props; he tends to avoid CGI. A lot of the devices are fun to watch, such as a see-through limo and a piano that can make cocktails. While a lot of the on-screen creativity is exquisite, there isn’t much of an organic flow to it all.
Gondry just throws what he wants on the screen and the actors keep straight faces. None of the style seems really balanced in the fantasy world, making things more puzzling than naturally entertaining at times. Such things as small men in rat costumes and human bodies magically extending their legs just feel weird.
It doesn’t help that Gondry uses a heavy hand with his visual touches in communicating the core ideas. In showing the struggles of love and depression, and the sacrifices one must make for a loved one, the director allows the lighting and production design to drastically change. If more depth was there it would be fine, but as is it seems a bit too dramatic on a surface level.
What mostly works on the technical side is the cinematography and music. The smooth camerawork by Christophe Beaucarne is impressive, with his subtle pushes and pulls adding some graceful touches. The music by Etienne Charry is never memorable, but it works in alternating from bouncy to sad in the moment.
Duris has a bright personality in the lead, but he is outshined by Tautou (who is always lovely) and Omar Sy (who is fun as Colin’s cook and friend, Nicolas). Supporting actors like Gad Elmaleh, Aissa Maiga, and Charlotte Le Bon also add some nice touches. All of cast nails the witty dialogue and likability of the characters, but the problem remains that none of the characters are very interesting.
Diehard Gondry fans will still want to see Indigo, but average viewers will be left wanting more. The director certainly has great talent, but this work deserved more complexity and emotion from the screenplay. Constant whimsy and music video-like stylistics can only take something so far before wearing thin.
Score: 2 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B-).
MPAA Rating: N/A.
Runtime: 1 hours and 34 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: July 18th, 2014 (limited).