(director/writer: Simon Boisvert; cinematographer: Jacques Bernier; editor: Simon Boisvert; cast: Simon Boisvert (Alex), Elise Beaumont (Isabelle), Diana Lewis (Audrey), Caroline Gendron (Lyne), Natasha M. Leroux (Sonia), Erwin Weche (Mike); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Simon Boisvert; 2005-Canada-in French with English subtitles)

Realistically engaging assault on the single twentysomething scene in Montreal.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

French-Canadian director, writer and starSimon Boisvert (“Guys, Girls and a Jerk”) presents another realistically engaging assault on the single twentysomething scene in Montreal. Three barmaids, Isabelle (Elise Beaumont), Audrey (Diana Lewis), Sonia (Natasha M. Leroux), each relate to bachelor Alex (Simon Boisvert) in a different way. Alex is engaged to the possessive Lyne (Caroline Gendron), who wants her man to stop running around and just stay home to boff her. But Alex is not sure if he wants to marry Lyne, and angers her by paying more attention to his movie producer friend Mike (Erwin Weche) than to her. When Mike calls, Alex ignores Lyne’s sexual advances to join him in their favorite watering hole. New barmaid Isabelle is a hot young number who attracts Alex, but she goes for Mike because she prefers arrogant jerks over regular guys. Mike invites the aspiring actress to be an extra in a short he’s filming, and Alex becomes her kissing partner in that scene. This encounter gets him to first base, though Isabelle rejects any further advances with those universal hurtful lines that there’s no chemistry between them and let’s be friends. But Isabelle calls Alex back after talking with the other barmaids and the two go out together. Alex thinks he has at last met the perfect woman and dumps Lyne, but soon the romance with Isabelle turns cold. She has the hots for Mike, who finds her immature but wouldn’t mind a one-night stand. When Isabelle comes over to Mike’s pad expecting to get banged, she’s disappointed to find two other women there and splits after getting hurt in the same emotional way she has hurt many men.

The filmmaker takes a cynical look at how these singles interact and wonders aloud what lessons they have learned from their experiences. The sexy Sonia offers Simon casual and uncomplicated sex anywhere he wants it, which might make her the dream girl for many singles. In the opening scene, she’s doing it with Mike in a bathtub decorated with candles. Audrey offers Alex friendship, loyalty, and good advise, and at 35 is the most mature of the three. But the one that gets Alex the hardest and makes his heart flutter, Isabelle, offers him frustration and aggravation. He’s just too nice for her and can’t be cool like Mike, whom she would give her bod to anytime he wanted it. To be with a stud, Isabelle would overlook his faults.

The film does a nice job setting up these desperate characters trying to be free spirits but carrying too much baggage to find much more than momentary sensual pleasures out of life. I think that’s about as far as you can go with these characters, as Mr. Boisvert nailed them for what they are without being judgmental.

Barmaids serves its romantic melodrama straight-up without sentimentality, in a way that evokes haunting feelings for many singles who have been slapped around in relationships that left one partner, the weaker one, unbearably hurt. In the relationships that wanted to carry on beyond sexual pleasure, there was always one person getting hurt. When the relationships were built around lust and nothing more, no one seemed to get hurt; but, then again, no one seemed to be as happy as they made out to be.

Though this hard-edged look at relationships has been done often enough to seem familiar, there was a refreshingly true quality about this low-budget production that is worth savoring for whatever it’s worth.

REVIEWED ON 2/18/2005 GRADE: B –