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The Beat that My Heart Skipped Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/25/2005

A couple of days ago I wrote a review of a remake of a bad movie.  I thought it was a novel idea to remake a bad movie instead of a good one.  Now I have come across another novel remake idea…a foreign movie remaking an American movie…instead of the other way around.  Specifically, the French movie The Beat That My Heart Skipped remakes the 1978 James Toback film Fingers.  I’ve never seen the original, but maybe I need to, because this remake bored me.

Thomas Seyr (Romain Duris) is a 28-year-old thug from Paris who aspires to do other things.  He and his two friends Fabrice (Jonathan Zaccaï) and Sami (Gilles Cohen) are in the business of running out tenants from their apartments with live rats and baseball bats.  Thomas also does favors for his father Robert (Niels Arestrup) as a debt collector.  He has recently met his father’s girlfriend Chris (Emmanuelle Devos), whom he calls a “whore.”  There is no reason for that label though.  He is most likely still mourning the sudden death of his mother Sonia, who was a successful concert pianist.  Thomas used to train with his mother ten years ago, but he is following in his father’s footsteps now.  After a chance encounter with his mother’s former manager, Mr. Fox (Sandy Whitelaw), the manager tells Thomas to audition for him, since he figures that Thomas has his mother’s talent.  He goes to a musical conservatory, where the professor (Emmanuel Finkiel) there tells him that he isn’t very good.  While still at the conservatory, he meets a French-Chinese student named Jean-Pierre (Jian-Zhang) who knows of a talented pianist named Miao Lin (Linh Dan Pham), who is a Chinese music prodigy there in Paris to study.  She supports herself by giving piano lessons, but she only knows how to speak Chinese and English.  Thomas wants Miao to teach him how to play J.S. Bach’s “Toccata in E Minor,” but he becomes frequently angry with her…but only out of his own frustrations though.  Fabrice and Sami think that Thomas’s musical aspirations are distracting him from his real estate thuggary.  Thomas is also being distracted by his affair with Fabrice’s wife Aline (Aure Atika.)  He had been covering for Fabrice’s own indiscretions with other women, but eventually, he let his own attraction to Aline bloom.  Really wanting to get out of the real estate and debt collecting business, he accepts one last job for his dad.  Robert wants Thomas to collect a large debt from a Russian mobster named Minskov (Anton Yakovlev.)  He doesn’t get the money from Minskov, does he does manage to have sex with Minskov’s girlfriend (Mélanie Laurent.)  If Thomas doesn’t choose between playing the piano and his other businesses, others may decide for him in violent ways.

I don’t know if it was the heat from the indie movie theater that I saw this movie in, but it didn’t entertain me.  Director Jacques Audiard wrote the script, along with Tonino Benacquista, and I have no idea if it came close to matching the original, which had Harvey Keitel in the lead role.  I like Keitel, so I have a feeling that I would have liked the original better.  I heard that Audiard’s Read My Lips was better, so I might check that one out sometime.

The Beat That My Heart Skipped had some fine performances, especially by Duris and Pham, but it wasn’t enough for me to give it a high recommendation.  Fans of the original or fans of French movies might like it, but I wasn’t impressed myself.  I would like to see more American movies being turned into foreign remakes though, if for no other reason than for the novelty of it.

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