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‘The Rose Maker’ is a crowd-pleasing bagatelle. And so what?

Gentle humanism is at the heart of this formulaic, flower-centric French dramedy

From left: Fatsah Bouyahmed, Marie Petiot, Catherine Frot and Melan Omerta in “The Rose Maker.” (Music Box Films)
(2.5 stars)

“The Rose Maker,” a winsome, undemanding dramedy by Pierre Pinaud, opens with an extravagantly staged sequence in the rose garden of Paris’s Parc de Bagatelle, a legendary pilgrimage destination for worldwide rosarians and the people who love them.

That setting turns out to be an apt one for a film that’s something of a cinematic bagatelle: Viewers looking for novelty, thematic heft and edgy plot twists are advised to skip this wispy audience-pleaser, which strains for credulity as energetically as it goes for the sentimental jugular. But you know what? It’s spring, we’re exhausted, and the gentle humanism at the heart of “The Rose Maker’s” most shameless manipulations might be just what more than a few cynicism-drenched audiences need.

The Bagatelle scene features Eve Vernet (Catherine Frot), who with her faithful assistant Véra (Olivia Côte) is bringing her latest hybrid to the Parc’s annual rose contest. Eve inherited her vast rose farm from her father and continues to follow his punctilious artisanal breeding procedures, delicately cross-pollinating her plants, saving the seeds and babying along the new flowers in the hopes that they’ll become bestsellers. Eve is being aggressively courted by a brash young businessman (Vincent Dedienne) who wants to absorb her operation into his own global conglomerate, but she’s determined to stay independent, while the bills pile up and her beloved creations fail to ignite the market.

Recognizing Eve’s need for cheap labor, Véra enlists the services of three ex-convicts: mild-mannered Samir (Fatsah Bouyahmed), shy Nadège (Marie Petiot) and surly Fred (rapper Melan Omerta). Once these three erstwhile miscreants are on the scene, the plot points unfold with metronomic predictability, from the inevitable personality conflicts, life lessons, revelations and seemingly catastrophic setbacks to the zany scheme Eve comes up with to save her life’s work.

Although “The Rose Maker” is ostensibly about how Eve and her ragtag group of misfits pull together, Pinaud focuses on her relationship with Fred, at the expense of Samir and Nadège, who quickly recede into the background, popping out for ostensible comic relief from time to time. Narrative tension is virtually nonexistent in a story animated by stakes that couldn’t be lower, or more formulaic; the plot hums along smoothly, much like Véra ’s battered VW that runs right on cue, no matter what misadventures befall it.

“The Rose Maker,” which was filmed in France’s picturesque Roanne hills, is undeniably pretty to look at: Production designer Philippe Chiffre appoints Eve’s isolated farm house in romantic swaths of rich-looking fabrics and floral-themed objets, and the flowers themselves are given pride of place in adoring close-ups. From a distance, the rows and rows of abundant blooms are so vividly hued that they look color-corrected to within an inch of their lives; squint and “The Rose Maker” becomes a poppy field worth of Monet in Argenteuil.

“The Rose Maker” is so frictionless and adamantly easygoing that its most genuine moments arrive as a shock: Frot and Omerta have managed to develop real chemistry amid the cliches, and the film’s climactic scenes are tear-jerkers that actually feel earned rather than engineered. Top it off with Pinaud’s final dedication, and “The Rose Maker” turns into a film that wears its emotions lightly but generously, like dew on a blush-colored petal.

Unrated. At the Avalon Theatre and Cinema Arts Theatre. Contains profanity and smoking. In French with subtitles. 94 minutes.