Leave it to the French to come up with a picture in which the bigamist is a woman instead of a man.
Alice (Miou-Miou), the busy heroine of "My Other 'Husband' " (Cineplex), isn't technically a bigamist. That's because the man (Eddy Mitchell) who has fathered two of her children (Ingrid Lurienne, Vincent Barazzoni) and with whom she spends half of her time in the Normandy resort of Trouville doesn't believe in marriage. She lives the other half in Paris with her legal husband (Roger Hanin) and their precocious 10-year-old son (Rachid Ferrache), who preaches leftist politics learned from the good Jesuits, yet practices petty capitalism in his mother's kitchen, selling gourmet meals to his pals.
But how long can Alice keep living her double life?
From her predicament, those veterans of many a mainstream movie, director Georges Lautner and writer Jean-Loup Labadie, have turned out a solid comedy with considerable laughter and not a few heart tugs. Not all their gags travel well, and their penchant for comic eccentricity in their supporting characters, principally Alice's girlfriends, lapses frequently into shtick.
Still, they've created three real and involving central characters, expertly played by their stars. "My Other 'Husband' " is firmly anchored in a convincingly evoked domestic life. It has the broad appeal of "Cousin, Cousine" in that it's slightly risque, yet ever so tasteful.
Conveniently, Hanin is an airline pilot who's gone much of the time, whereas Mitchell is a hypochondriacal grade-school teacher who needs all the attention Miou-Miou can give him. Somehow she manages to run two households and work part time as an assistant to a Paris surgeon and as a physical therapist in a Trouville saltwater spa.
How did this seemingly normal, seemingly sensible woman end up living two lives? Inexplicably, the film makers hold off their surprisingly credible answer till more than an hour into this 110-minute movie. The delay is more distracting than suspenseful and tends to block sympathy for Alice. Once the explanation is out, the film gains momentum, building to a moment of truth that fortunately has enough impact to sustain its contrived ending.
By that time, Miou-Miou, Hanin and Mitchell have captivated us thoroughly. Your heart goes out to the irresistible, understated Miou-Miou, to her complicated life and the likable, volatile men and children in it. As always, Hanin is the big, blustery fellow, loud but sweet.
Mitchell, a durable rock 'n' roll singer with a '50s pompadour, is the revelation. In "Coup de Torchon" he was Stephane Audran's oily lover; here he's a superb comedian. Although its pluses outweigh the minuses by a respectable margin, "My Other 'Husband' " (wisely rated PG-13 for adult situations) is an entertainment, not a work of art. But fun.
'MY OTHER "HUSBAND"'
A Triumph Films release of a Gaumont International-Marcel Dassault co-production. Executive producer Alain Poire. Director Georges Lautner. Screenplay Jean-Loup Dabadie. Camera Henri Decae. Music Philippe Sarde. Art director Alain Gaudry. Costumes Maika Guezel. Chief film editor Michelle David. Film editor Elisabeth Guido. With Miou-Miou, Roger Hanin, Eddy Mitchell, Charlotte de Turckheim, Dominique Lavanant, Rachid Ferrache, Ingrid Lurienne, Vincent Barazzoni, Venantino Venantini, Francois Perrot, Lionel Rocheman, Andre Valardy, Renee Saint-Cyr, Patrick Floersheim, Florence Giorgetti, Philippe Khorsand, Roland Giraud, Robert Dalban, Jean Rougerie. In French, with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
MPAA-rated: PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned; some material may be inappropriate for children under 13).