Directed by Eva Sereny. Starring Robin Givens, Marco Hofschneider, Rick Johnson, Charlotte Ross, Jack Coleman, Charles S. Dutton. (1994, R, 90 min.)
REVIEWED By Brian Baker, Fri., Aug. 5, 1994
In the fall of 1956, Phillippe (Hofschneider) is given his “chance of a lifetime” to leave Paris and go to Asheland-Stuart University in Virginia for one semester. He is initially overwhelmed by the strange accents, overabundance of blonde Southern belles (who want nothing to do with him), and the unusual terminology (he mentions that he played football in France and is immediately on the field being tackled in some strange sport he doesn't understand). He soon stumbles onto true love when he meets April (Givens), a black school teacher, and the two find themselves meeting in secret to continue their “forbidden” love affair. Through it all, Phillippe cannot believe that there is such a staunch division between the white and black cultures, nothing like this happens in France. This is where Foreign Student takes a sharp turn away from believability. No, an eighteen-year-old in 1956 who has lived all his life in Paris would never have had the chance to witness one group of people show massive hatred toward a different group. That is, until you consider that whole occupation of France thing. Foreign Student's most enjoyable moments come when it celebrates aspects of the different cultures instead of pretending not to understand them. This is best demonstrated in a too-brief scene wherein Phillippe visits a blues bar deep in the heart of the black community and is treated to some incredible tunes by Howlin' Wolf (the very talented and highly underrated Charles S. Dutton). Recent Playboy playmate and one-time lame sitcom star Givens gives an impressive and moving performance. Her main problem is not being able to hold onto a Southern accent to save her life. Hofschneider, on the other hand, has no problem maintaining his French tone, never once betraying the fact that he is actually German. His biggest asset for this film is his looks. He has such a sincere face that when he professes not understanding prejudice, he is completely believable even when the circumstances are not. It is true, however, that a completely realistic love story has yet to be made. There may be no such thing. In the meantime, Foreign Student offers a sweet little tale of what happens when innocence and love collide.