Avenue Montaigne (Fauteuils d’Orchestre)(2006)

Rating: ★★★½☆

The synopsis, from Amazon.com:

French for “Orchestra Seats,” Avenue Montaigne offers an outsider’s perspective on an insular world (the original title is Fauteuils d’Orchestre). After bidding adieu to her grandmother (Suzanne Flon in her final performance), sunny Jessica (Cécile De France, L’Auberge Espagnole) moves from Mâcon to Paris. Upon securing a job as a waitress in a popular café, she meets high-strung soap star Catherine (Valérie Lemercier), burnt-out pianist Jean-François (Albert Dupontel), and secretive art collector Jacques (Claude Brasseur), who comes equipped with a pretty girlfriend and a handsome son (Christopher Thompson). Though the tousled Jessica has little in common with these posh Parisians, she affects each of their lives in ways both big and small. Directed by Danièle Thompson (La Bûche) and co-written with her son, Christopher, Avenue Montaigne serves as the flipside to French phenomenon When the Cat’s Away, in which a young woman meets the people in her neighborhood while searching for an errant feline. In this case, the surroundings are more upscale, but the residents are just as susceptible to fear and insecurity. Though the idea of a sympathetic look at the upper class will surely strike some as off-putting, Thompson makes it work. The genuine affection she feels for her characters–privileged and underprivileged alike–and the grace with which she keeps several plot strands going at once proves that the spirit of Robert Altman lives on in the most unlikely of places. –Kathleen C. Fennessy Click here to get the DVD.