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'French Girl': Quebec City rom-com with Vanessa Hudgens, Zach Braff proves Canada is culturally unique

'I think unfairly, Canada just kind of gets lumped into America," co-director and co-writer Nicolas Wright said

Many people believe Paris is the most romantic city in the world, but filmmakers James A. Woods and Nicolas Wright make a pretty convincing case for Quebec City to take that title with their film French Girl, starring Zach Braff, Vanessa Hudgens and Evelyne Brochu.

The story follows to Gordon Kinski (Braff) from New York to Quebec City with his girlfriend Sophie Tremblay (Brochu), who has the opportunity to work in a restaurant at the legendary Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, in her hometown. The catch, Sophie would be working for her ex-girlfriend Ruby Collins (Hudgens), but initially, Gordon has no idea Sophie and Ruby ever dated.

Additionally, Gordon is under significant stress to impress Sophie's family, with all the cultural and language barriers between them, with a plan to propose to Sophie.

Wright and Woods were actually inspired by their own personal stories for French Girl. Both of them came from Montreal families where their English fathers fell in love with French Canadian women.

"When we started writing together, we were sort of baffled that no one had really done that film yet," Wright told Yahoo Canada. "With our lived experience of the sort of culture mashup of English Canada and French Canada, we were pretty tickled by the idea of doing a romantic comedy where you could really exploit the comedy that would come from that."

"Setting it in Quebec City, which is such a majestic romantic city, ... we were shocked that no one had [done it]."

'French Girl': Quebec City rom-com with Vanessa Hudgens, Zach Braff proves Canada is culturally unique (Elevation Pictures)
'French Girl': Quebec City rom-com with Vanessa Hudgens, Zach Braff proves Canada is culturally unique (Elevation Pictures)

Much of the film is in French, instead of, for example, characters speaking English with Quebec accents. Sophie's family only really speaks English when they try to communicate with Gordon, which is also something the filmmakers pulled from their real lives.

"The story is about our family and it was very important just to honour that and to celebrate it," Woods explained. "We grew up in a bilingual world and that flavour, and how fun and lucky and privileged we thought we were, and we wanted to share that."

"Language is music and thankfully I think audiences are so used to reading subtitles that it's no longer a challenge. I think even 10 years ago it would have been a different pitch and different answers of yeses and noes, but with this, certainly on the Canadian side, it was like, 'Oh my God, let's do that.' And Paramount on the U.S. side were just as supportive. ... It was more challenging ... to remember that people reading it have to laugh, which is a little bit of a challenge in comedy."

Zach Braff in French Girl (Elevation Pictures)
Zach Braff in French Girl (Elevation Pictures)

'Unfairly, Canada just kind of gets lumped into America'

What French Girl also leans into are the differences between American and Canadian humour, but not in combative way, but in a way that depicts that Canada does have a unique comedic voice, which is especially true in Quebec.

"I think unfairly, Canada just kind of gets lumped into America, but Canada has its own very unique culture, and within that Quebec has its own unique culture," Wright said. "So to play with all those mashups was super fun for us."

"It felt natural, because, I guess we're obviously very Americanized boys. Even though we grew up in Montreal, we dined out on all of the American media, but also British [media]. I think Canada's sense of humour is a healthy mix between British and American, and it gives you this kind of very unique sense of humour."

"And then you add Quebec to that, which has this gorgeous French energy, and that European flavour," Woods added.

But Wright did recognize that there was a challenging in really managing that comedic tone of the film.

"Comedy's not something that exports that well," he said. "So to have to find the comedy inside the French and the English, and finesse it in the subtitling, and seeing which jokes land."

"We just had our premiere in Montreal and it was fun to see that certain jokes hit really hard there, which don't necessarily hit in English markets. But then the opposite happens in English markets. ... So just dialling all that in during the edit was a really challenging process, but hopefully we landed in a place where there's something for everyone to enjoy."

Evelyne Brochu and Vanessa Hudgens in French Girl (Elevation Pictures)
Evelyne Brochu and Vanessa Hudgens in French Girl (Elevation Pictures)

'Let's throw an old lady around the room'

While we won't spoil all the comedic moments that Woods and Wright crafted for this film, there is one particularly hysterical physical comedy moment to look out for, which revolves around Gordon having to get the engagement ring for Sophie back from her grandmother, "mammie."

"It's my favourite scene in the film, because I think it's hard to do physical comedy and so that's something we approached very technically," Woods said. "We rehearsed it in pre-production, we had a great stunt coordinator who brought in a stunt woman."

"At the script level, we are such fans of all of John Hughes's stuff and if we could just get close to some of his magic, we knew we were onto something," Wright added. "You've got to take a big swing and is it over the top? Is it trope-y? Well, it depends. It's in the execution. If narratively it's built in, then you're allowed."

"Sometimes the esoteric nature of comedies that at least we let ourselves get into, we're like, man we've just got to laugh. We've got to make something that gives us that chance of doing those movies in the '80s and '90s. ... Let's throw an old lady around the room ... and see what Gordon Kinski can do with that."

French Girl is now in theatres