Régis Roinsard’s “Waiting for Bojangles,” based on the novel by Olivier Bourdeaut, is a film so unabashedly romantic that it could only be French. It tells the story of two boundless, irrepressible lovers, Georges (Romain Duris) and Camile (Virginie Efira), and the life they share in Paris in the 1960s with their young son, Gary (Solan Machado-Graner).
Their home, brimming with warmth, is crowded nightly with friends and family, like a madcap salon fueled by cocktails and lively conversation. Their tale eventually becomes tragic, however, as Georges and Camile’s relationship is strained by Camile’s battle with mental illness. But the film’s vision of a life of immeasurable joy and passion — one lived solely for love, without limits or qualifications — is beautiful and, for this critic and helpless romantic, powerfully intoxicating.
The infectious brio at the heart of “Bojangles” is a testament to the performances of the ensemble cast, but especially Duris and Efira, whose chemistry is magnetic. Duris, as Georges, is introduced as a carefree mechanic posing as a worldly socialite at a party on the coast — a role he embodies with effortless charisma — when he meets Camille, downing glass after glass of Champagne and dancing wildly. One instantly roots for them.
Now, the exuberant, sentimental esprit of “Bojangles,” from its impassioned sex scenes to its moments of tender longing, puts it in constant jeopardy of seeming maudlin or, worse, a little corny. But it’s an admirable problem. If you commit to romance, seeming corny is a risk you have to take.