Change of Plans, 2009

From the opening images of Change of Plans, Danièle Thompson illustrates the intersection between personal and public spaces, initially, in the title sequence shot of a flamenco class in which a distracted, rhythm-challenged attorney, Marie-Laurence (Karin Viard) tries to keep up with – and out of the way of – other people, and subsequently, a gynecologist, Mélanie (Marina Foïs) examining a patient before being interrupted by a phone call from her lover. Having learned from her stay-at-home husband, Piotr (Dany Boon) of an added guest – her recently jilted lover, Jean-Louis (Laurent Stocker) – Marie-Laurence impulsively decides to invite her dance instructor Manuela (Blanca Li) in order to maintain the balance of men and women at the table, despite not having prepared enough food for the added guests. With the building access code having been changed earlier in the day, Marie-Laurence’s estranged father, Henri (Pierre Arditi) unexpectedly coming for a visit, traffic coming to a virtual standstill with the advent of a music festival street fair, and friends Mélanie and her oncologist husband Alain (Patrick Bruel) uncommitted about coming to the dinner party (Mélanie having decided to reveal her affair with a jockey and ask for a divorce that evening), the occasion invariably turns from carefully planned event to barely controlled chaos, with Marie-Laurence’s younger sister, Juliette (Marina Hands) deciding to drop in for a visit with fellow actor, Erwann (Patrick Chesnais) in tow, and divorce attorney, Lucas (Christopher Thompson) dragging along his neurotic wife Sarah (Emmanuelle Seigner) on the pretext of the dinner in an attempt to woo Marie-Laurence into his practice with the tantalizing offer of assigned parking space. As in her earlier films, Thompson returns to her recurring theme of shared spaces as intersectional précis for the banalities and transformative junctures of everyday life. Less cohesive than Orchestra Seats, the organic, decentralized framework of Change of Plans becomes an implicit inversion on the myth of bourgeois complacency, where the notion of settled lives at forty-something collides with the reality of life-altering changes, mortality, new love, and self-discovery.

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