Review: I Love America, good grief

Sophie Marceau In I Love America

I Love America has some very negative reviews talking about superficial characters, plot development, and unlikely romcom stories. But I think a lot of people who looked at this film as a romantic comedy missed the point. I found at least one part of the story that was beautifully done and may have been the entire point of the movie.

I Love America, in my opinion, is about grief. It’s about a lifetime of grieving over an absent mother. This mostly French film was written and directed by Lisa Azuelos and dedicated to her mother, French singer and actress Marie LaforĂȘt.

Lisa (Sophie Marceau) is a 50 year old film director. She has children and grandchildren in France. She has a famous mother, played here by Sophie Verbeeck.

She leaves for L.A. to “start a new life.” As her new life begins, she writes a screenplay about it as it happens. Through flashbacks written into the script we see how distant Lisa’s famous mother was from her, how her mother left her behind to pursue her career, how lonely and isolated Lisa was as a child.

Djanis Bouzyani in I Love America

Her gay friend in L.A., Luka (Djanis Bouzyani), picks her up from the airport. He helps her settle in and gets her started using a dating app.

She hasn’t been in L.A. long when her sister calls to say their mother is dying. She heads back to France. With her mother on her deathbed, Lisa is able to hold her hand for the first time without her mother pulling away. She is able to lie in her arms and tell her she loves her.

Back in France again for the Christmas holidays, Lisa’s sister gives her a small package. It’s from her mother and isn’t to be opened until Lisa’s birthday.

When her birthday comes, she opens the package and finds a gold bracelet her mother always wore. She finds her mother’s red lipstick with a note saying to consider it a last kiss.

Lisa takes that lipstick and writes love letters from her mother all over her body. Her arms, legs, torso, everything is covered with hearts and words of love. In one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen, we see Lisa in a big bathtub full of clear water, the lipsticked messages all there to read.

I know the film spends a lot of time and energy on Lisa’s romance with John (Colin Woodell), on Luka’s love life and drag club, and on the L.A. lifestyle. Those less than perfect filmic moments distract from the grief and healing that Lisa experiences around her relationship with her mother. That grief and healing was the heart of the film for me. Overall, the film is a disappointment, but the moments that worked were brilliant.

You can see I Love America on Prime Video.

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