A Frenchwoman of a certain age considers the question from the US Customs officer at LAX, and speaks her mind.
“I want to start a new life.”
And so she sort of does, 50 and “putting herself out back there” with the guidance of that Everywoman’s LA accessory, the gay BFF. And as she’s dating again, she’s writing (in voice over) an autobiographical screenplay about her neglectful, self-absorbed “diva” mother who left her in a small boarding school as a child, deliberately letting the child Lisa think it was something she did that caused this first of many abandonments.
“I Love America” makes a decent 50something showcase for the almost-ageless Sophie Marceau (“Braveheart,” “The World is Not Enough”) and pretty much nothing else. It’s a dry, somewhat vapid “French sophisticate in LA” dramedy about parenting, love, age and finding closure as the heroine of your own story.
And if writer-director Lisa Azuelos, who teamed with Marceau for the equally empty “LOL” 15 years ago, doesn’t utterly waste our time and Marceau’s, that’s only because Marceau doesn’t let her.
Lisa arrives in LA just as her mother (Sophie Verbeeck) takes a terminal turn for the worse back in France, “pissing me off to the end,” the daughter grumps (in French, with English subtitles).
But getting past that, her already-in-LA gay bartender pal Luka (Djanis Bouzyan) puts her on dating apps, drops her age from 50 to “43” and invites direct messages by the hundreds, most of them on the sliding scale of lascivious to crude.
The dates begin, a middling string of older-men-pretending-to-be-young and one dedicated cougar hunter (Colin Woodell) who insists a dating app can lead to something permanent and meaningful.
These outings, often connecting to the discos and disco of her youth, prompt flashbacks to the wounds of childhood — her “playboy” and out of his depth (not married to Mom) dad, Julien (Hubert Benhamdine), whom she nicknames “Judas,” her mother’s “new life” and new family pushing Lisa further into the background.
The running theme of these memories as they work their way into the screenplay within the screenplay is a life of longing for unfulfilled needs, scars Lisa made a decision to not pass on to her own kids, whom “I created to make sure someone loves me on this planet,” with much of what she encounters in LaLa Land being a potential trigger — “reunions,” etc.
Every so often, Lisa talks about Los Angeles, the movies and the cinematic landmarks of her life that live on there — “The Way We Were” to “The Big Lebowski.”
Azuelos renders all this in sweeping strokes of randomness — Lisa breaking her “no sex on the first date” rule, Luka living out some sort of ’80s gay cliche — hookups that can’t recall ever meeting him — mixed with modern LA gay stereotypes (Luka’s ex has married and has a child with his new partner).
The entire affair seems researched by watching lesser Hollywood films and sitcoms. Luka’s high-end apartment and cherry condition 1966 Mustang convertible make one wonder about bartender salaries in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Marceau remains an arresting screen presence, but that’s severely tested by Azuelos’ inane, meandering and trite tale of love, loss and closure, wrapped in a female wish fulfillment fantasy.
Rating: unrated, nudity and sex, profanity
Cast: Sophie Marceau, Sophie Verbeeck, Colin Woodell and Djanis Bouzyani
Credits: Scripted and directed by Lisa Azuelos. An Amazon release.
Running time: 1:43