It isn't necessary for us to fall in love with any of the lead characters featured in the French thriller "Roman de Gare."

However, it would be nice if we liked any of this scheming, duplicitous bunch. As it is, we're not really sure how we should feel about them or all of their double-crossing actions.

And that's especially true of the film's rather questionable ending. Is it supposed to be funny, tragic or what? Even the characters don't seem too sure.

Veteran French actress Fanny Ardant stars as a best-selling writer, Judith Ralitzer. Recently, she's become reliant on her secretary, Pierre Laclos (Dominique Pinon), who's been providing material for her novels.

Pierre is on his way to meet Judith about her next work when he gets sidetracked by Huguette (Audrey Dana), a woman in obvious distress, .

She's just been dumped by her fiance, and the apparently kind-hearted Pierre consoles her. And even more surprisingly, he agrees to pose as her husband-to-be when she goes to meet up with her parents and other family members.

Of course, there's still a question as to whether he's doing this to get stories and material for Judith's new novel, or whether he has another, more sinister motive.

Add to that some go-nowhere bits, such as references to a serial-killer case that's in progress and a subplot about a missing school teacher — who turns out to be Pierre's brother-in-law.

But co-screenwriter/director Claude Lelouch can't really pull all these disparate elements together, and the whole thing feels messy. Even his first-rate leads Ardant and Pinon (a regular presence in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's movies) seem confused.

"Roman de Gare" is rated R and contains strong sexual language (profanity, vulgar slang and other suggestive talk), derogatory language, brief strong violence (gunplay and a violent tumble), some off-color sexual humor, brief drug content (use of a tranquilizer), and some brief gore. Running time: 103 minutes.