It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
When I was small I liked to go to the movies because you could find out what adults did when there weren't any children in the room. As I grew up that pleasure gradually faded; the more I knew the less the characters seemed like adults. Ernst Lubitsch's "Trouble in Paradise” reawakened my old feeling. It is about people who are almost impossibly adult, in that fanciful movie way -- so suave, cynical, sophisticated, smooth and sure that a lifetime is hardly long enough to achieve such polish. They glide.
It is a comedy for three characters, plus comic relief in supporting roles. Herbert Marshall plays a gentleman jewel thief, Miriam Hopkins plays the con-woman who adores him, and Kay Francis is the rich widow who thinks she can buy him but is content to rent him for a while. They live in a movie world of exquisite costumes, flawless grooming, butlers, grand hotels in Venice, penthouses in Paris, cocktails, evening dress, wall safes, sweeping staircases, nightclubs, the opera and jewelry, a lot of jewelry. What is curious is how real they manage to seem, in the midst of the foppery.
The romantic triangle was the favorite plot device of Lubitsch. The critic Greg S. Faller notes that the German-born director liked stories in which "an essentially solid relationship is temporarily threatened by a sexual rival.” Here it's clear from the beginning that the gentleman thief Gaston Monescu (Marshall) and the lady pickpocket Lily Vautier (Hopkins) are destined for one another -- not only because they like each other, but because their professions make it impossible to trust civilians. When Gaston meets Mariette Colet (Francis), it is to return the purse he has stolen from her and claim the reward. She is attracted to him, and he gracefully bows to her lust, but there is an underlying sobriety: He knows it cannot last, and in a way so does she.
The sexual undertones are surprisingly frank in this pre-Code 1932 film, and we understand that none of the three characters is in any danger of mistaking sex for love. Both Lily and Mariette know what they want, and Gaston knows that he has it. His own feelings for them are masked beneath an impenetrable veneer of sophisticated banter.