In an early episode in Catherine Corsini’s dark romantic comedy, Ambitious, a timid, aspiring writer book shop owner named Julien (Eric Caravaca) discreetly, but deliberately, foists his recently finished autofiction manuscript on unsuspecting friend and perennial store patron, Mathieu Séchard (Renan Carteaux), the son of a renowned literary publishing house director in Paris, and immediately becomes wracked with anxiety and insecurity over Mathieu’s seeming evasion and prolonged silence regarding his initial impressions of Julien’s work, mollified only by his friend’s impulsive offer, in passing, to send the manuscript to his father’s office. Julien’s seemingly amicable, yet intrinsically calculated encounter with Mathieu provides an incisive prelude to the film’s overarching themes of exploitation, vanity, and self-absorption, as his reprehensive opportunism is equally matched by the introduction of a mercurial publishing agent named Judith Zahn (Karen Viard) into his life. Delegated with the task of providing feedback on the manuscript’s potential for representation, Judith shirks her obligation to review the personal favor submission and, instead, sends an assistant to meet with Julien to tactfully, but decisively reject his work. But Julien soon proves to be a formidable non-client, ingratiating himself into a frazzled and distraught Judith’s reluctant company. Newly entrusted into her intimacy, Julien discovers the remarkable contents an entrusted box of souvenirs and personal effects that Judith has inherited from her estranged, late father – a 70s revolutionary who had lived a life of intrigue replete with covert acts of political espionage and assassinations – and decides to surreptitiously embark on a more marketable premise for his next novel, a story based on the mined contents of her father’s buried, secret history. Assembling an eccentric cast of morally reprehensible, yet endearing characters – a motley crew that also includes failed thespian, consummate freeloader, and part-time stalker, Julien’s former classmate, Simon (Gilles Cohen) – Corsini strikes a delicate balance between humor and pathos, revulsion and affection to create a slight, yet acerbic dysfunctional fairytale of the idiosyncratic intersections of deception, manipulation, betrayal, and desire that define the inscrutable course of neurotic true love.
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