Danièle Thompson’s comedy-drama Change Of Plans starts with a group of friends gathering for a dinner party, each with their own secrets and intentions. Then, half an hour into the movie, the story jumps ahead a year, and everything’s different. Lawyer Karin Viard—the party’s host—is rethinking her marriage in the wake of some surprising news, and so is gynecologist Marina Foïs with her marriage, due to an accident that occurred on the night of the party. After the time-jump, Thompson moves back and forth between the party and its one-year-later aftermath, showing how matters of life-and-death importance can seem more trifling with time.
Thompson—who co-wrote Change Of Plans with her son Christopher—keeps the movie light and bubbly, set in a milieu of well-heeled professionals who’ve stopped worrying about whether they can meet their material needs, and have moved on to fussing with redecorating and adultery. But Thompson’s cast is too large for her to make the best use of her ingenious story-structure. In addition to the lawyer and the doctor, the movie follows another lawyer and another doctor, plus two actors, a flamenco instructor, a children’s-book author, an out-of-work professor, and more. To keep them all straight, Thompson relies on visual and verbal signifiers—a lab coat here, an “I think the judge might be calling” there—that reduce the characters to plot-delivery machines.
Which is a shame, because in almost every other way, Change Of Plans is smart about the transformative pace of modern life. Thompson shows her characters carrying on multiple conversations at once—in person, on the phone, and via text message—each with their own degree of deceit. And she shows how they’re changing all the time in small ways, whether they’re rearranging their table settings or reprogramming their security codes. The movie’s jump forward in time reveals the big changes, but the truth is that even at the beginning of Change Of Plans, the characters are already in a state of flux.