Comparing 'Three Men and a Baby' and 'Trois Hommes et un Couffin': Relationships/Relations


There are many major differences in the relationships portrayed in the French film compared to the American version. For example, there are next to no important female characters in Trois hommes et un couffin, except for maybe Sylvia, who doesn't even appear until the end. All other women are just random conquests of the men, emphasizing further their bachelor statuses. Even Nathalie, who Pierre mentions several times, barely has much screentime. On the other hand, in the American film, Rebecca is much more of a present figure, and actually seems like a constant girlfriend of Peter's. 

Another important change in relations has to do with the police. In the French version of the film, the police serve as another antagonist, along with the drug dealers. Both are working against the efforts of the three guys. They have to be clever and outwit both groups. In the American version, the police are a bit silly, with the chief being a grandfather type figure who only wants to hold and play with Mary. They need the help of the three men to catch the bad guys, and they all seem to work and cooperate together.

I agree  with Kathy. The presence of strong female characters is starkly different between the two films. Even during the dinner party in the French version, the one women, (I forgot her name) had to almost dragged home by her friend because she was so drunk but in the American version, Rebecca seemed stronger especially when she refused to cancel her date to play the role of mommy and take care of someone else's child.

I also found that the emphasis on showing affection between the men and Marie was very different. For example, in the French version, there is one scene where we see Michel kissing Marie and being extremely tender with her but I don't remember there being a similar moment in the American version. I also noticed that when Sylvia took Marie in the French version, the men seemed genuinely happy to get rid of her. They all dance while heading back home but in the American version, Peter and Michael don't think Jack should let her go but they hesitate to say anything to him about it. It is later on after Marie has been gone for a while that the men realize how miserable their lives are without her.

The relationship dynamic between the men is very different. I would say that the interactions between them was played down in the American version. For example, there are several instances where Pierre and Michel are yelling at Jack because he has shirked his responsibilities whereas  the American version lack the fights that we see.

I felt that the Americain version emphasized the three men becoming closer to eachother as they became close to Mary.  There were a lot of scenes where all three men were caring for or playing with the baby together.  The French version seemed to emphasize each of the men individually bonding with the baby and missing her in their own ways.

Additionally in the Americain version the three men are more open to talking about how they feel about Mary.  In the French film when Sylvia comes to get her baby the men are overjoyed that they'll be able to return to their normal lives and catch up on all the sex they've been missing out on.  In the American version all three men are sad to see Mary go and ultimately chase after her.

I think that the way the relationships between the men and the baby are portrayed and very interesting. For example, personally, my favorite scene of either movies is when the broken hearted Jacques talks to the former police agent on the bench and talks about how Adam must have been made by taking a rib from Eve because men could not have created anything as amazing or beautiful as life. It is this scene that reveals how deeply Marie has affected the men and changed their lives.

In the American version, when Jack returns from his trip, he almost immediately begins taking care of Mary with earnest. It's a difference in writing of the character. Jacques is much more reluctant and his affection for Marie is something that grows, not entirely of his own volition, over time. This progression makes his state at the end of the film more profound.

Although the American version of the film does attempt to show some aspect of the three men's relationship with Mary, it does not go into depth enough to portray something as realstic and touching as the French film did.

I agree with what you all have said about how in the French version the men seem to see women only as conquests. In the beginning, they all talk about women in a very objectified way; they seem to remember their bodies quite well but not so much their names. 

Still, as important as their sex lives are to them, it seems like Marie is more important. There is that one scene where Jacques is sleeping with a woman and stops halfway to attend to Marie, who is crying, and the woman leaves and he doesn't seem to think it's a big deal. But I am not so sure to believe that the men grew to love Marie; it came off to me more like it was a responsibility that they had to take on, and they had no choice but to take care of her. I mean, they even tried getting her that "Second Mother" person (even though Pierre kicked her out because apparently he knew how to care for babies better than her).

In the French version, the men seemed to have to choose between having a social life and taking care of Marie, which seemed to be why they were so happy when Sylvie came back and took Marie.  But in the American version, the men manage to balance caring for Marie with having a life, so they were never really missing out.

In the French version, all of their friends and the women don't seem to be to tolerate a baby enough to even hang around with the men.  But in the American version, having a baby seems to make the men more popular, in the park for example.

I think the interactions with the police in the American version were ridiculous. No one would actually do that. In fact, it's actually really stupid because the three men assumed that the drug dealers didn't have any other partners who might seek revenge. I thought this part of the movie was absurd.

In both movies, I think the men made genuine changes in their lives after their experience with Marie/Mary. I think the men realized that the selfish lives they were living were not as fulfilling as they had originally believed, and it was only after they had to take care of someone else that they realized that there were more meaningful things in life than womanizing and partying. It seemed to me that the French men in the beginning were more arrogant and selfish than the Americans, but I feel like they also made a much more sincere change at the end of the movie, really feeling the loss of Marie until Sylvia returned. The changes in the American men didn't seem as sincere.

Pertaining to the manner in which the men treated the women: in the American movie I definitely agreed that their was a difference compared to the French version in how they looked at women (especially, as you mentioned, the presence of Rebecca), but I'd also like to point out the manner in which Michael delt with the woman during the birthday party.  Instead of trying to just sleep with her, he tried to console her and reassure her that her old relationship would eventually mend itself. (This was something that I believe Peter mentioned to Jack--that Michael had fixed another "doomed relationship").  However, I felt that Jack most closely resembled the men in Trois Hommes, in terms of his promiscuous behavior.


I'd like to talk about the differences in the relationship that the men in the two films had with the police.  It seemed to me that the men in Trois Hommes had to deal with a more aggressive police force than the men in the American version.  The police followed them very closely and they couldn't even leave their appartment without having someone following tightly on their tails.  Also the three men in the American version help the police to catch the drug dealers and in doing so develop a sort of rapport with the inspectors (one of them is even interested in holding Mary).  Another interesting character is the young policeman in Trois Hommes who was foiled by the men but just needs to know for his own sanity where the drugs where. The differences in the relationships between the police and the men are some of the greatest changes from one film to the other.

Because of the extended drug dealer capture scene in the American version, the relationship with Mary is put on fast forward (literally) as we see the men parade around with Mary. And When Sylvia takes Mary away, she's only back for a day before asking the men for help. This very much short changes the relationship with Mary. They TALK about missing her, but it's not as believable. We got the sense they spent less time with her, as the baby never aged any (portrayed by twins) and I don;t think we saw the seasons change in NYC. All suggesting this was an extended babysitting and the actual emotional connection to Mary less believable.

Whereas in the French film, the passing of time if far more clear with two babies playing Marie, and more screen time given to the emotional state of the men. We also get scenes like Michel seeing Sylvie leave Marie behind while at work and Jacques showing up at her apartment. These scenes add a lot of weight to the men and their attachment to Marie.

In the American version, the three men don't seem to struggle when the baby comes, and all difficulties they may have are treated as comedy. They get attached really fast and have no problem in showing their emotions and talking about their feelings.  You never feel the tension between the men either.  In the French movie, the three men never talk about the situations they are going through and they are really ashamed of showing that they were getting closer to the baby.

Also, in the American movie, there seem to be two disconnected parts: the drug-dealing and the baby part.  they are weakly linked and since the movie is shorter, they spend a lot less time in the baby situation.

In the French film, the good and the bad was always shown in each situation. All emotions are developed, and they're not always positive ones.  I think the American version kind of glossed over the more emotionally taxing parts, such as the anger Peter and Michael feel towards Jack, or quite as much of the frustration they all have.  Their inner conflict between wanting to maintain their previous way of life and starting to become attached to Mary is not very developed, and I think this gives a more "cheap entertainment" feel to the American film.  Their attachment to Mary developed very quickly in the American movie, wheras in the French version, you can trace it slowly growing through a few telling scenes (Michel and Pierre both having touching moments with Marie, Pierre making the nanny leave, etc).  The lack of relationship development between the three men and Mary in the American version also lends to the unrealistic nature of the film.  Like many movies, it has a good plot, and you can get some sort of a "take home message" from it, but it doesn't go as deeply emotional or quite as true to what would really happen as the French movie did. The American movie was more artificial in a way--the "happy ending" wasn't very believable.  Having all four people and Mary living together happily in one home just doesn't seem very likely, whereas the French version seemed much more true to life.  If I were in that situation, I can imagine I would also share custody, which seems like what happened in the French movie, but I can't imagine all of the bright, happy little scenes that appeared at the end of the American version.

Même si les films français et américains sont presques les mêmes, les relations entre les personnagees sont complétement différents selon les films. On peut observer que dans le film américain, les relations entre les trois hommes sont beaucoup plus soudée comme l'a souligné Daniella. Au début quand ils sont confrontés au problème du bébé, ils s'organisent assez rapidement et cela se passe bien.Alors que dans le film français, les hommes se disputent beaucoup plus.

De plus, dans le film français, on peut voir que les hommes tentent de caché qu'ils se sont rapprochés du bébé ( la scène du bain par exemple) car on peut penser qu'ils ont honte. Mais dans le film américains, les hommes cachent beaucoup moins qu'ils se sont attachés à l'enfant( la scène de la piscine).

J'ai trouvé qu'il y avait des différences entre les personnages de la version française et de la version américaine au niveau des caractères. Surtout pour le personnage de Pierre / Peter. Dans la version française, on a l'impression que Pierre râle et qu'il s'énerve tout le temps. Quand il découvre Marie, il s'énerve sur Michel qui est pourtant son ami. Peter paraît moins énervé, il ne s'en prend pas autant à Michael. Après, comme le dit Hillary, c'est peut-être parce que le film français montre davantage tous les sentiments que ces hommes peuvent ressentir. Y compris ceux qui sont plutôt négatifs.

Les deux versions de films nous expose la meme relation qu'ont les 3 hommes avec le bébé. Un bébé n'est pas facile a gérer mais on s'attache tres vite à lui et l'amour que l'on peut porter à l'enfant mais aussi l'amour que cet enfant nous apporte nous fait oublier bien des contraintes et des problèmes engendrées par la venue de cet enfant

Les deux versions de films nous expose la meme relation qu'ont les 3 hommes avec le bébé. Un bébé n'est pas facile a gérer mais on s'attache tres vite à lui et l'amour que l'on peut porter à l'enfant mais aussi l'amour que cet enfant nous apporte nous fait oublier bien des contraintes et des problèmes engendrées par la venue de cet enfant

Based on some of the discussion so far I was wondering whether in France it is less acceptable for men to display their feelings (in the way that Trois Hommes treated the interactions of the men individually with Marie)? Did this mirror reality or do you think that the characters were simply trying to maintain their bachelor reputation in each other's eyes? I thought these scenes really helped show how much Marie was affecting the men, but the way they did it in secret was interesting.

I was also wondering whether anyone else found it odd that the men didn't go to the authorities when they first found Marie. It may have been because they thought Jack/ Jacques had wanted to keep the package a secret but even after they cleared the mixup? Is that something that happens often, mothers leaving their children on their father's doorsteps? I feel as if paternity issues are handled differently in the states.

The obvious differences in relationships between the movies is the promiscuity. I feel that there was definitely more sexual encounters or implied sexuality in the French film. There was some in the American film, but not to that extent. None of the men in the French film had any serious relationships. At least Pierre in the American version wanted some sort of relationship with Rebecca. In America, the French version of the film would probably be more for an older viewing group, with the American version is for all ages. Now i understand that the French film is intended for the entire family, but the dynamic of child rearing in France and the US is very different. American parents like to shelter their children from the outside world, while it would seem the French do not shelter their children and expose them to reality. I would imagine that this has both positives and negatives.

Pardon me in advance for the length!  I thought these films were really interesting to compare!

As so many of us have noted, the French movie focuses a great deal more on the development of the relationship between the three men and the young girl, in all of its nuance and subtlety, than the American film is able to.  We are given the impression that the French roommates develop a genuine connection - love, really - for the infant, whereas the interaction in the American film doesn't even seem real, a superficial affinity at best. 

The scenes in which the Americans are shown to "develop their relationship" with the baby are extremely public displays, comical even - Peter taking the baby to the construction site, Jack bringing her along to a play rehearsal, taking her into a pool used for an adult swimming class.  These images contrast sharply with the profoundly more personal and intimate scenes of Pierre giving Marie a bath, or Michel kissing and playing with her in the apartment one afternoon.

What is interesting here, is that both of these films are intended to be comedies, which means that what is considered funny is rather different in our two cultures.  It seems, considering the French film's focus, that it is the notion of three young, handsome bachelors, incapable of being "caught" by any woman, falling so helplessly in love with a tiny baby girl who cannot even speak, that is comical.  It is the irony - the inversion of social expectation, and the exposure of the warmth and softness underlying the cold masculine exterior that is funny in the French film.

But in the American version, the comedy is situational - it is funny that the baby is wearing a hard-hat, and that Jack dresses like a woman, and that Peter throws a basketball at Jack in the middle of the night, having mistaken him for an intruder.  The movie relies on a series of instances of situational (and often slapstick) humor, perhaps because the idea of a man deeply and profoundly loving a little baby is something that is an increasingly realistic notion here.  (Nowadays, for instance, there are "stay-at-home-dads" who take care of the children and the home as the wife goes out to work.)  So as funny as it is to see the French men hide their feelings from one another, the makers of the US film probably tried to move the focus of the comedy to more superficial aspects of the plot to avoid making too strong of a social statement and stay within the bounds of "political correctness".

How strongly does the idea of "political correctness" play a role in the media and film industry in France?  How do you think the characters Jacques, Pierre and Michel would be regarded in French society were they to be more open about their feelings for Marie?

I thought the most interesting relationship difference between the films was in that of the father and daughter.  In the French film, Jacques takes a lot longer to care about his daughter.  His lukewarm affection is particularly evident when he is so disappointed that his request to be grounded has been approved.  In the American version, Jack is ready for a night in with Mary by himself in almost his second scene with her.  I think I find the French version more realistic.

I agree with Anne: both films do a very good job of portraying the affection of the 'parents' for the baby, despite all the hardships she brings.  Though it doesn't happen immediately, they both grow to love her very much.

Dans le film américain ce qui m'a le plus marqué était la relation avec le bébé. Dans cette version on voit que les hommes s'attachent plus vite à l'enfant que dans la version francaise. Ils arrivent à gerer la situation plus vite, même si ils disent que ce n'est pas leur enfant ( ce qui est le cas) ils ne le cachent pas pour autant. 

Dans la version francaise j'ai remarqué que  les hommes mettent plus de temps à gérer l'enfant par exemple pour les couches ou le bain.

Like Claire said, a major difference was the way in which Jacques et Jack initially reacted to the baby. One of the first things Jacques said when he came back was that they had to get rid of the "moutard" and seemed in denial about the whole situation, while Jack was more calm and more accepting of his new responsibilities.

Another difference I noticed is that in the French version the baby doesn't allow the men to work, while in the American version the men are seen enjoying having Mary with them at their jobs.

A lot of people noticed that the French men are much more hesitant to admit that they are becoming attached to Marie than the men in the Ameircan version, and I was just wondering why that is.  Do mothers and fathers have traditionally different roles in child-rearing?  Is it more socially acceptable for a mother-figure to be openly affectionate than it is for a father-figure? 

Also, going off what Jessica said, do the French have a more hostile or distrusting relationship with the police?  In the American version, they were definitely an annoyance, but then it seemed like the men realized that the only way to get rid of the police was to help them and "save the day".  As is typical of a Hollywood ending, the police didn't give them any trouble and accepted their story (although I feel like a lot of the red tape and double checks that would happen in real life are ommitted in these movies), and in the end, the men are on good terms with the police.  However, in the French movie, although that part of the story is resolved (the drug addicts will no longer both the men and Marie), we never really find out what happened to them, and the police officer that was tailing them quit the force.  I also found that kind of weird--was there some sort of symbolism that I missed when the young police officer quit?

In the French movie, the friends of the three men all reacted very negatively at the party when they discovered Marie. Is this a normal reaction? How are single mothers and single fathers perceived in France?

In both movies, Jacques and Jack tried unsuccessfully to get their mothers to care for Marie/Mary. In France, how much support do parents usually give to their children if they have to raise a child on their own? In the American film, Jack's mother appeared to be wealthy and sophisticated, yet she refused to help Jack in any way. I thought this was kind of harsh, and I don't think it's a typical response in American culture.


I think Jared raises an interesting point. In both movies, the mothers refuse to accept the responsibility of taking care of Marie but for different reasons. In the French version, the mom is going on vacation and in the American version, the mom tries to teach her son a lesson about becoming an adult and accepting responsibility for his actions.

I wonder whether how realistic these responses are given that the health of a child is in question. I was also wondering if anyone thought that if the French mom wasn't going to be away, she would have kept Marie.

Given Jack's/ Jacques' limited contact with his mom, I think this greatly affected his mom's reaction. What would you say the normally type of interaction between grand-parents and grand-children is within French culture? Do they play an active role or are they more the family members you see a couple times a year?

I am also interested to know, not so much with immediate family, but do the French try to remain close with their extended family. My family is from Colombia and I have an incredibly large family (not immediate, but extended). We remain in constant contanct and spend what time we can with them. I know that "family" is important to the French, but does this extend to extended family as well.

Comme beaucoup d'entre vous l'ont dit et ce que je pense aussi, c'est que dans la version Américaine, les trois hommes s'attachent beaucoup plus vite au bébé que dans la version française.

Pour donner mon point de vue personnel, je préfère la version américaine pour son comique de situations et de personnages. C'est probablement peu réaliste d'ailleurs, car j'imagine ( et j'espère ) que tous les américains et français savent que les nourrissons boivent du lait. l'homme qui arrive au supermarché pour acheter des petits pots à un bébé de cet âge là, n'est-ce pas un peu exageré ?

On peut aussi souligner les deux différentes version au niveau de la découverte du bébé : Les deux hommes "américains" sont surpris, ils rient jaune et finalement, ils sont très maladroits avec le bébé, comme s'ils tenaient un objet non-identifié. Les "français", quand ils découvrent le bébé, leur mine vire complétement à l'ennui, ils voient le bébé comme un poid, une corvée.

Au passage, l'on remarquera aussi que les "français" se crient beaucoup plus dessus que les Américains qui sont moins agressifs mais tout aussi austères. Comme quoi, la complicité peut être plus forte dans un pays qui prône l'individualisme...

I agree with Anthony's observations on the contrasting demeanor of the French and American roommates.  He noted that the French characters seem to argue a great deal more than their American counterparts, and that Pierre, in particular, seemed almost always to be in a foul mood - whereas Peter's character was comparatively quite mild.

I agree with all of this, and would go further to suggest that the in the French film, all of the male characters' personalities are more distinct, and more extreme than in the American film.  For instance, in the French film, Pierre is decidedly irritable, Michel is extraordinarily absent-minded and overly-solicitous, and Jacques seems the rather narcissistic "bachelor".  In the US version, however, Pierre, although a tad sarcastic at times, is generally good-natured;  Michael, though a tad boyish, seems to think relatively clearly (he makes sense of the "package" mix-up much more quickly than Michel is able to), and Jack, although a tad egocentric, perhaps, seems to have a good sense of humor about it.

In general, I think the French version makes a much greater effort to uniquely develop the character of each of the three men with certain (perhaps theatrically-exaggerated) traits, whereas in the American version, they are all made more similar and realistic.

Perhaps the French film was intended to be more of a dramatic satire, whereas the US version was intended for mass consumption.  Are most films in France of this sort?

Adding to Hillary's comment about the interaction between the protagonists and the police and the dealers, it also interesting to note that Michel was far more willing to confront the dealers directly and physically (in the supermarket scene). In conjunction with Pierre's immediate fear of arrest/imprisonment simply by having the drugs in his apartment, there seems to be an assumption that the French police will not do a thorough investigation and jump to conclusions. The French characters must take matters into their own hands.

Is this attitude toward the cops unique to this movie, or does it show up in other movies. Is is an accurate reflection of French attitudes?

In American movies, the attitude of "we can just go to the cops, and everything will work out" is probably dependent on the race and socioeconomic class of the protagonists.

I would actually have to disagree with Jared's comment that the Jack's mom's response in the American version was not typical of most American parents' response.  Admittedly it was a bit harsh, but I thought it very much fit our culture's definition of "tough love".  I also think it was very typical of an American mother, especially one in a movie, to encourage her son to take responsibility for his actions and almost refuse to enable his lifestyle any longer.  Although most American mothers would help him get by if he really needed her, I think the mom's point was that he was capable of handling the situation, so she wasn't going to be his "easy way out" of this situation.  I think it reminded me of a lot of American tv showsa because most of them always have a moral or a lesson to each episode. 

This represents another major difference I found between the American and French versions of the movie:  the American version was centered on a general theme of taking responsibility for your actions and growing up and maturing under the least expected circumstances, which is fitting since it seems like almost all Americna books or movies have a moral to the story, or some sort of "take home message".  I think the mom's response in the American version of this film really typifies our culture's love of life's "teaching moments" and therefore fits our culture well. 

Is the mother's response in the French movie similar to the way most mothers would respond?