There’s a fine line between winsome charm and grating too-cuteness, and the Manhattan-set romance “5 to 7” flirts with and finally crosses it once too often. The feature directorial debut of writer Victor Levin (“Mad About You,” “And Then She Found Me”), this calculatingly adorable coming-of-age tale has its delights — chiefly in a modest, endearing lead performance from Anton Yelchin and an amusing two-handed turn by Glenn Close and Frank Langella as his parents — but feels more constructed than lived.
Yelchin plays a 24-year-old struggling author named Brian Bloom, who experiences a coup de foudre one day in Midtown when he spies a beautiful French girl smoking a cigarette with Gallic ex-model allure. Her name is Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe), and soon the two are embarking on a sweet, wildly romantic relationship set, as luck would have it, in New York’s most attractive, photogenic locales.
Complications ensue, and “5 to 7” — which refers the kind of well-managed, discreet affair that only the French could perfect — tries mightily to gin up the tension. But despite some welcome light-comic touches (such as an enjoyably fizzy scene in Bemelmans Bar with Brian and his family), its core theme of heedless passion never sparks, much less simmers. For a movie about physical attraction, “5 to 7” is a remarkably unsexy affair: Levin elides the physical in favor of sweet-natured excursions to SherryLehmann for wine tasting or an impromptu baseball game in Central Park. (The filmmaker has enlisted an impressive array of boldface names to provide uptown literary cred in “5 to 7,” from Julian Bond, Daniel Boulud and the conductor Alan Gilbert to the New Yorker’s David Remnick.)
More problematically, Arielle never comes suitably into focus, remaining instead a maddeningly obscure object of desire: She keeps telling Brian he’s a brilliant writer, but we never see her read or discuss his work. Rather than evince a genuine intellectual or moral inner life, she simply fixes him with a smile that, the more Marlohe flashes it, begins to look less dazzling than dazed and insipid.
There aren’t many surprises in “5 to 7,” unless you count such startlingly cliched bits of dialogue as “Life is a collection of moments” and “There’s no free lunch.” The story winds up pretty much where alert viewers will predict, with a sentimental education dutifully delivered — not by way of an affair to remember, but through a far less interesting wish-fulfillment fantasy.
R. At Landmark’s E Street Cinema. Contains sexual material and smoking. 95 minutes.