In "Time to Leave," a careless, selfish person discovers in the springtime of life that there are only weeks left before the party's really over. Dozens of movies have been telling such stories about doomed, pretty things since the 1930s, and audiences are conditioned to expect that the person about to die will somehow summon hitherto untapped resources of goodness to bestow upon humanity before the proverbial lights go out.
Not even Francois Ozon, whose directorial resume includes such quirky takes on conventional melodrama as "Under the Sand" and "Swimming Pool," can avoid such cliches -- though not for lack of trying. Romain (Melvil Poupaud), "Time to Leave's" protagonist, is a Parisian fashion photographer who finds out he has inoperable brain cancer. Refusing chemotherapy, Romain decides to let fate take it from there.
Romain is depicted as a narcissistic prima donna before he gets the Bad News -- and, contrary to conventional expectations, behaves even worse afterward. He dumps his longtime lover (Christian Sengewald) with the same tactlessness and cruelty he uses on his emotionally fragile sister (Louise-Anne Hippeau). Neither they nor anyone else in Romain's life knows about his illness except for his grandmother (Jeanne Moreau), who's apparently burned a few bridges in her own past.
Through brief flashbacks and the occasional cryptic remark, Ozon offers only suggestions of what's behind Romain's mercurial attitude. These narrative tactics usually imply more than meets the eye. In this movie, they merely seem like ornaments haphazardly applied to the movie's magazine-slick surface. Still, as with any Ozon film, "Time to Leave" comes across with unexpected moments of illuminated stillness, even when Poupaud's character pouts and glowers into his assorted beverages. And any movie that gives meaningful face time to the incomparable Moreau can never be a total waste of time.
'Time to Leave'
MPAA rating: Unrated
Distributed by Strand Releasing. Writer-director Francois Ozon. Producers Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier. Director of photography Jeanne Lapoirie. Editor Monica Coleman. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. In French with English subtitles. Exclusively at Laemmle's Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena (626) 844-6500; Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd. (323) 848-3500; Regal University Town Center 6, 4245 Campus Drive, Irvine (949) 854-8818.