Written & Directed by Francis Veber
Starring Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, Michèle Laroque, Michel Aumont, Thierry Lhermitte
My Advice: Matinee.
Francois Pignon (Daniel Auteuil) is the dullest man you’ve never seen. All he has is an ex-wife, an estranged son, and his job of twenty years...until cutbacks within the company deprive him even of that. With only a lonely, pathetically empty life ahead of him, he considers suicide, but is stopped by a chance meeting with his new neighbor, Jean-Pierre (Michel Aumont). Jean-Pierre suggests to Francois that it may be possible to keep his job, if he “admits” that he is gay. With a little manipulation of photographs and the help of rumor and gossiping co-workers, he gains his job back...and much more than he bargained for. The ploy snowballs into a frenzy of misunderstandings as Francois marvels at the effects of coming out of a closet that he never went into, some of them surprisingly positive. The man who was once the epitome of blandness begins to find life in his existence. As Francois himself says, “pretending not to like women, I became a man.”
This is an incredibly clever and funny film, with a very strong cast. Depardieu was very entertaining (as always), this time playing macho personnel manager/rugby coach Felix Santini, who believes he must befriend the newly-gay Francois to retain his own job. Laroque presents a wonderful balance of looks and intellect in the part of Miss Bertrand, Francois’ boss, and Aumont is simply charming in his portrayal of the unconventionally sweet Jean-Pierre. Auteuil’s performance reminded me very much of Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, creating a wonderfully complex character whose inward strength and vitality is finally coming into light and surprising everyone, himself most of all.
Matching the strength of the cast was that of the script, which was refreshingly different from most comedies I have seen. Twists in the plot (and the people) add a richness to the basic storyline, making it more than just funny lines connecting funny scenes. I must mention, at this point, that I admire anyone who can make a movie that translates well into another language. Many people seem to think this a simple process, that something which entertains in one language will invariably entertain in another. However, the reason that good “foreign” films are good is not that the actual translators were exceptionally talented, but that the movie itself touched on universals that can be understood in any language. These are the films that pull you into the story so much that you forget you are reading little yellow words at the bottom of the screen. Happily, this is one of those films.
I would suggest that anyone seeking a solid eighty-five minutes of entertainment should watch this movie. It will give you a laugh, a smile, and a few thoughts about how we work, both with others and with ourselves.
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