This zig-zagging emotionally perceptive tale of an American writer abroad and the women he has bedded — or perhaps merely written about having bedded — is accomplished French filmmaking the way arthouse denizens like it.
Arnaud Desplechin’s Deception is a strange, stifling but frequently intriguing attempt to find a cinematic match for the literary voice of Philip Roth, from his autofictional 1990 novel of the same name.
To give Deception, the latest attempt to bring Roth to the screen, a little bit of credit, it does come closer than most to rendering his prose stylings into cinematic terms. But it does so in a film so lifeless and inert from a dramatic standpoint that few viewers are likely to notice or even care.
Desplechin and his film seem to have a perverse and single-minded fixation not on “dazzling, interesting” women, but lost, tragic ones—women who can gravitate toward and glom onto Philip (Denis Podalydès), an inexplicably francophone version of the author, who lavishes the attention.
A film full of people smiling knowingly and laughing delightedly at each other’s not-especially-funny-or-interesting remarks, and it’s all the more insufferable for things the film gets fundamentally and structurally wrong.