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In July


In July


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There's a wonderful moment in Howard Hawks' classic screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby in which Cary Grant, a straitlaced and nerdy paleontologist, tries to excuse himself from the moon-eyed Katharine Hepburn, telling her that he's due to marry another woman. Undaunted, Hepburn lets out a confident burst of laughter, as if to say, "No, silly, you're coming with me." From The Lady Eve to Something Wild, it has long been a staple of romantic comedies that free-spirited women know more than hapless men about the ways of love, even if it takes the whole movie to penetrate their thick skulls. An unabashedly goofy road odyssey across the wilds of Eastern Europe, writer-director Fatih Akin's In July follows this reliable formula to the letter, yet every time the pace starts to flag, it coughs up one hilarious left-field interlude after another. As tradition dictates, the film's loose, irrepressible spirit radiates entirely from the female lead, here a delightfully flaky young street vendor played by Christiane Paul. In the Cary Grant role, Run Lola Run's Moritz Bleibtreu stars as a lovelorn Hamburg physics teacher who's oblivious to Paul's affections, falling instead for the mysterious Idil Üner, a beautiful Turkish traveler stopping through the city for the night. When Üner takes off the next morning for Istanbul, Bleibtreu takes a great romantic leap and spontaneously decides to follow her there, embarking on a roundabout journey through Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria (eliding war-torn Yugoslavia) to meet her under the Bosporus Bridge. In the meantime, Paul departs on her annual hitchhiking vacation, going wherever the passing cars take her, but in a cinematic universe ruled by serendipity, she and Bleibtreu wind up spending most of the journey together. At times too eager to please, In July gets away with its broad, stridently wacky tone, partly because Akin's affection for even the smallest character runs surprisingly deep. In his world, stereotypical baddies like a gun-toting border guard, a silver-toothed hoodlum with a corpse in his trunk, and a ruthlessly seductive pickpocket are capable of unexpected decency, especially in the face of romantic destiny. As he treads over well-worn screwball territory, Akin understands that he can get away with a predictable finish so long as he provides a few compelling detours along the way. And with interludes that evoke Rousseau one moment and The Dukes Of Hazzard the next, In July rarely gets boxed in by its own studied conventions.