Isabelle Huppert
GABRIELLE — ** — Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Greggory; in French, with English subtitles; not rated, probable R (vulgarity, nudity, profanity, brief sex).

Even if you are armed with the knowledge that the two-person character drama "Gabrielle" isn't supposed to be easy to watch, it doesn't make watching it any easier.

In fact, nothing much happens in this talky and unpleasant French drama, which is apparently based on Joseph Conrad's novel "The Return."

Ostensibly, it's a prolonged argument between a married couple, Jean and Gabrielle Hervey (Pascal Greggory and Isabelle Huppert). Their loveless marriage has been in trouble for years, and things have taken a turn for the worse because of an affair she's been carrying on.

As it turns out, Gabrielle has been planning to leave Jean for her lover, but now she's changed her mind. Unfortunately, she left a note for Jean, detailing her many complaints against him and revealing her infidelity.

Hearing these two actors — or, more correctly, since the movie is in French with subtitles, reading these two actors — as they argue and bicker becomes wearying in a hurry. And they're both so unlikable that it's hard to care about whether they can resolve their differences.

In addition, co-screenwriter/director Patrice Chereau (1998's "Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train") doesn't seem in any particular hurry with the pacing. He practically dawdles, which makes the whole thing feel longer than its relatively scant running time.

To their credit, the fine French actors Greggory ("The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc") and Huppert ("I Heart Huckabees") do try to add some shadings to their characters, but it's never worth the effort.

"Gabrielle" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang words and phrases and other suggestive terms), full female nudity and some brief sexual contact, as well as some implied domestic violence. Running time: 90 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com