‘All Together’: Speaking French the Jane Fonda way

Jane Fonda (second from right), Claude Rich (center), and Geraldine Chaplin (right) in a scene from Stéphane Robelin’s “All Together.”
Jane Fonda (second from right), Claude Rich (center), and Geraldine Chaplin (right) in a scene from Stéphane Robelin’s “All Together.”

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In “All Together,” Jane Fonda uses French so flamboyantly that France must have a word for the French she’s speaking. It’s the sort of French that in a Hollywood movie or television show is spoken by a woman about to step in a pile of dog doo. It’s the sort of French that says: “I’m American but listen! Isn’t it lovely?” It’s big and blocky, but still kind of glamorous. This is her first movie in French since Jean-Luc Godard’s lacerating “Tout Va Bien” and the height of her activism era.

That was 40 years ago. This new movie doesn’t lacerate anything. It licks and hugs. It even has a scene of the erstwhile leftist pinup advocating for a libertarian chore system. The occasion for that is a senior living arrangement among two long-married couples (Fonda and Pierre Richard; and the ever-supple Geraldine Chaplin and Guy Bedos), their skirt-chasing pal (Claude Rich), and a young ethnologist (Daniel Brühl) who moves in for the purposes of research.

Minutes and minutes of cute comedy ensue. Richard’s character, Albert, is severely senile, forgets he’s drawn a bath, and floods the manse. Fonda and Brühl take walks with a big slobbery dog that sometimes end up with her trying quietly to gauge whether he finds her sexy. There’s also the news that her character, Jeanne, is gravely ill. We know this only because a doctor arrives to tell Arthur, who says nothing. Otherwise, Fonda spends every one of her many scenes looking fantastic.

You’re free to smile at a lot of this. That appears to be the writer and director Stéphane Robelin’s desired outcome. But after an hour, you can appreciate that he’s not shameless. Mortality lurks politely, as it tends to in movies like this – in “Cocoon,” say, or “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Michael Haneke’s grueling octogenarian romance “Amour,” which opens later this year, is entirely about mortality’s lurk. The comedy in Robelin’s movie veers from wacky and overwritten to truly, beautifully sad, especially the whimsical final sequence, which is as apt an existential tribute to the afterglow of Fonda’s fabulousness as you’ll see.