Coup de Chance

With a sordid personal scandal essentially destroying his career in America, Oscar-winning filmmaker Woody Allen picked up his proverbial football and went to France. Never one to be excessively forthcoming, we can only guess how the director feels about this circumstance. It clearly hasn’t affected his creativity. Allen’s latest, Coup de Chance is, quite unexpectedly, the best work he’s done in years. The title translates to “stroke of luck,” and luck – good or bad – is absolutely the theme here.

Fanny (Lou de Laâge) is walking down the street, minding her own business, when she runs into Alain (Niels Schneider), an old classmate who confesses that he always had a crush on her. They start meeting regularly to reminisce. Fanny’s stick-in-the-mud husband Jean (Melvil Poupard) doesn’t initially know about Alain yet grows suspicious of her behavior. He hires a private detective to investigate the possibility that she’s cheating.

That’s a threadbare description of the plot. Allen has bigger tricks up his sleeve. Much of Coup de Chance asks us to observe the difference between Fanny’s two relationships. To Jean, she’s admittedly a bit of a trophy wife. He likes how her beauty and intelligence reflect on him when they attend parties and business functions. To that end, he’s passive-aggressively controlling of her. Alain, on the other hand, is a writer, passionate about the book project he’s come to Paris to work on. While his feelings for Fanny may be purer, it’s also clear she represents something he has long wanted and couldn’t previously have. Fanny gets benefits from both relationships but may not feel complete in either.

Coup de Chance, which is closest in tone to Allen’s 2005 Match Point, has several dramatic twists that send the plot in new directions. For a while, it seems the movie is evolving into a portrait of obsession – Jean’s obsession with reclaiming his wife and Fanny’s obsession with the sense of liberation Alain provides her. A crucial scene at the very end reveals the director’s true intent, as an ironic, accidental event reshapes the way we view everything that has come before. The idea is that random luck can be positive, like Fanny running into Alain, or it can be hostile. Either way, it can’t be controlled, and our lives are forever susceptible to its fickle nature.

There’s a slight “shaggy dog story” quality to the picture, given that the ending doesn’t necessarily resolve the formal plot. Or at least it doesn’t in a conventional manner. Nevertheless, Allen’s point does make a darkly humorous impact. A strong performance from Lou de Laâge keeps the wheels turning. The actress shows us how different Fanny becomes around each of the two men in her life, thereby making the romantic confusion palpable and affecting. Over the course of the film, Fanny’s own luck goes from good to bad to ambiguous.

Coup de Chance is well-written, with smart (subtitled) dialogue. Allen and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now) unfold the action in long, unbroken shots that allow the story to have a natural flow. The running time consequently zips right by. Is Woody Allen making a statement about the role of luck and fate in his own life? Possibly. Unlike a lot of his works, an obvious autobiographical quality isn’t on the surface. That said, it’s beyond interesting that he chose this topic at this stage of his career.

out of four

Coup de Chance is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence, and suggestive material. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan