Paris 36 picked the wrong story to tell. The pretty period piece squanders luminous newcomer Nora Arnezeder, relegating her love story to a side plot in favor of focusing on an aging, depressed and not nearly as attractive guy who's upset about losing both his job and custody of his young son.

Paris 36 picked the wrong story to tell. The pretty period piece squanders luminous newcomer Nora Arnezeder, relegating her love story to a side plot in favor of focusing on an aging, depressed and not nearly as attractive guy who's upset about losing both his job and custody of his young son.

Pigoil (Gerard Jugnot) used to manage a Parisian music hall, the Chansonia, which a neighborhood gangster forced to close in the midst of the 1930s depression. So Pigoil and some of his old coworkers decide to self-produce a new show that'll hopefully make them enough money to buy back the theater.

For some reason that's never fully explained, baddie gangster Galapiat (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) wants to see them fail (maybe he just hates seeing people have fun). And their show is a failure at first, but its saving grace is the lovely announcer Douce (Arnezeder), who quickly takes her rightful place as star songbird.

With big musical numbers and a complicated romance, Paris 36 is made to appeal to fans of Frenchy confections like Moulin Rouge and Amelie. But all that fun is tempered by an undercurrent of political unrest, union strikes and fascism. Oh, and it's actually set up as a murder story, but that angle's abandoned about halfway through.

Director Christophe Barratier - whose last film, The Chorus, was a Best Foreign Language Film nominee - should have just stuck with the love story.