Movies with wacky animated opening credits come with their own set of expectations, and Après Vous lives up to all of themor down, depending on your sensibility. Daniel Auteuil stars as a kindly Parisian headwaiter who stumbles across José Garcia in the park one night as Garcia's preparing to hang himself. Auteuil stops him, then takes responsibility for straightening out Garcia's life, beginning by reuniting Garcia with the woman who's made him so distraught, a florist played by Sandrine Kiberlain. But Kiberlain bewitches Auteuil as well, and though he tries to stay on task and whip Garcia into shape, it doesn't help that his charge is a death-obsessed neurotic who lives in fear that light fixtures will fall on him. He calls it "vertigo in reverse."
Director Pierre Salvadori pitches Après Vous as a genteel farce with a leisurely pace and low stakes. It's sweet, but way too silly, and over-reliant on Auteuil's exaggerated benevolence and Garcia's exaggerated uselessness. The plot drags when Autueil connives to have the flat-palated Garcia hired as a wine steward, and the film detours into scenes of Garcia screwing up at work and Auteuil bailing him out. Meanwhile, Auteuil tries to pry Kiberlain away from the man she's currently seeing, and comes up with ever-more-elaborate lies to explain why he keeps hanging around her. Eventually, he pretends he's in love, though it's barely a pretense.
Auteuil keeps Après Vous going even when it's running on the fumes of farces past. In one of the movie's funnier scenes, he reads Garcia's suicide note to Garcia's blind mother, changing the wording as he goes to make it more upbeat. Auteuil throws himself into the story he's making up, delighting in his own sunny imagination. He's equally dutiful about buying his way out of corners and ponying up for flowers, meals, and even a marriage he doesn't want. But Auteuil never feels any real pain. Yes, Garcia is a pest, but Auteuil is so eager and gracious that he doesn't seem to mind the inconvenience. In the end, Après Vous is the very essence of a bourgeois comedy, all about minor annoyances and the healing power of money.