Neither as arousing nor as insightful as it clearly considers itself to be, Antony Cordier’s tiresome ménage à quatre drama Happy Few becomes numbingly tedious as it charts the sexual involvement of two Parisian couples, Vincent (Nicolas Duvauchelle) and Teri (Elodie Bouchez) and Franck (Roschdy Zem) and Rachel (Marina Foïs) over a few months. Rachel meets Vincent at work and the couples begin to socialise. A mutually agreed arrangement of partner-swapping commences, and seems to suit all parties - before predictable insecurities and jealousies begin to surface.
There’s promise in the scenario and as often in contemporary French cinema the domestic scenes here have a wonderfully naturalistic, improvisatory quality that draws the viewer in. But every effective moment or witty detail seems to be followed by a clunking, obvious touch: intrusive ambient music, an over-reliance on montage sequences, deadening, over-explicit voice-over that frequently sounds like parody. “Week after week, we shared each other,” intones Rachel at one point. And later: “We were all going to be haunted by a simple question: can you love two people at the same time?”
More problematically, a conventional, calculating aspect to Cordier’s approach soon becomes evident. Teri confesses to a lesbian fantasy, and it’s not long before Rachel proves willing to enact it. The relationship of the male characters, in contrast, stays firmly within homosocial boundaries. The movie’s adherence to a hetero-porn aesthetic is most apparent in a spectacularly uncomfortable sequence in which it’s established that Rachel's passion for Vincent is based entirely on his tendency to slap her around during sex.
The actors do well enough. Foïs, in particular, brings bite and tension to some of her better scenes, while Duvauchelle, always a powerful screen presence, also registers strongly. But Cordier is terribly careless in his treatment of the secondary characters: the couples’ children aren’t given a line of dialogue until it serves a plot convenience. A missed opportunity, this uneven and contrived drama irritates more than it involves.