Romain Duris, the star of the terrific French drama of romantic indolence Russian Dolls, bears a remarkable resemblance to the young Mick Jagger, yet you have to look well past his aura to see it. It’s not just the squared-off preppie hair, it’s Duris’ whole Gen-X spirit — calculated and low-key, too impassive to broadcast his pleasure about anything. Duris plays Xavier, who is 30 and lives in Paris and sleeps with more beautiful women than any movie hero should have a right to, yet you see how he gets them. He’s not a conventional screen lothario, all rawhide swagger and ”moves.” He’s far more realistic: the sort of plainspoken yuppie closet narcissist who lets women find him by making himself the still center of every encounter.
Four years ago, in the international hit L’Auberge Espagnole, Xavier was one of a group of students who shared a rowdy apartment in Barcelona, and writer-director Cédric Klapisch made the inspired decision to give him his own sequel. Russian Dolls is a candidly deft portrait of a womanizer’s journey. Xavier, who patches together an opportunistic career as a freelance writer, may be a shallow middle-class hedonist, but then, so was Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel. Klapisch, who digitally divides frames into collages of memory, is perfectly in tune with our era’s cynical freedoms. As Xavier reunites with a former housemate (Kelly Reilly), asking if love is worth the price, Russian Dolls captures how being a sexual cad has become an essential phase in the life of the modern male.