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MOVIE REVIEW : TOO MUCH WEAVER IN ‘ONE WOMAN’

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Times Film Critic

There are warring elements in the oafish comedy “One Woman or Two” (Beverly Center Cineplex), which was, almost unbelievably, directed by Daniel Vigne, who gave us “The Return of Martin Guerre.”

On the one hand, there is the touching, airy and absolutely delightful performance by Gerard Depardieu in a role that might have been draped comfortably over Cary Grant in the 1930s: that of a shy, dedicated paleontologist who stumbles across the complete remains of a 2-million-year-old woman.

On the other, there is Sigourney Weaver as the Manhattan ad executive who’s come to France apparently to shoot a perfume campaign--although how she ends up modeling for it herself is only one of the story’s infinite messes.

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Strident, bossy, rude and charmless, practicing a sort of clenched, finishing-school French, Weaver is thrown together with the hapless Depardieu, and we are supposed to think he’s better off for it. (In the meantime, he has dumped his long-suffering, exquisite artist-girlfriend, an actress called only Zabou, who is the picture’s real charmer.)

Virtually skateboarding between Weaver and Depardieu is the indefatigable Ruth Westheimer (Dr. Ruth to us) as a millionaire philanthropist. Dr. Ruth is exactly as forthright as you might expect, and about as much of an actress, but you do not come to love her character. Having led us to expect a little something between her and Depardieu’s older, single partner, Michel Aumont, the screenwriters, Vigne and Elisabeth Rappeneau, abandon her shamelessly.

The ideas of “One Woman or Two” are so impoverished that it almost begs for pity--if it were not being acted out upon your body for your admission fee.

During its infinite slack moments (when there are no more upscale Paris apartments to admire), there is a lot of time to consider that Weaver has been naked, next-to-naked or so wetted down that she might as well be naked in at least her last three movies and her most recent Broadway play.

Fitting these naked moments in logically can’t have been easy. And as they reach for the third such scene at the close of “One Woman or Two,” things turn almost surrealistically silly. Out at his parched digging site, Depardieu discovers Weaver in his temporary offices. There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky. Weaver, however, is drenched to the skin and gamely climbing out of her things. Again. “A sudden rainstorm,” she says brightly.

Apparently it’s an obligatory scene, possibly specified in her contract. If so, that document would make infinitely better reading than this screenplay.

‘ONE WOMAN OR TWO’

An Orion Classics Release of an Hachette Premiere/Philippe Dussart S.A.R.L/FR3 Films/D.D. Productions production. Director Daniel Vigne. Screenplay Vigne, Elisabeth Rappeneau. Camera Carlo Varini. Art director Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko. Sound Guillaume Sciama. Editor Marie-Joseph Yoyotte. Music Kevin Mulligan, Evert Verhees. With Gerard Depardieu, Sigourney Weaver, Ruth Westheimer, Michel Aumont, Zabou, Jean-Pierre Bisson, Yann Babilee, Maurice Barrier.

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Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

MPAA-rated: PG-13 (parents are strongly cautioned to give special guidance for attendance of children under 13).

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