Featuring: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alexandre Nahon, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy
Director: Julie Delpy
Writer: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alexandre Nahon
Australian release date: Thursday 22nd November
Reviewer: rolanstein (one-word verdict: lame)
French photographer Marion (Julie Delpy) lives in a comfortable New York apartment with her partner Mingus (Chris Rock), a kool-kat talk-radio host, and their two kids from previous relationships. The applecart of their cozy lives is upset when Marion’s ebullient family pays a 2 day visit to NY to attend her photo gallery opening. Her jolly, irreverent father, Jeannot (renowned French screen and stage actor Albert Delpy – Julie’s Delpy’s real father), is at the centre of the chaos, ably aided and abetted by her promiscuous exhibitionist sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and sort-of-boyfriend Manu (Alex Nahon).
Was it really only two days these French buffoons were in NY? Seemed to drag on a lot longer than that.
This irritating piece is full of WoodyAllenesque faux-improvised conversation with several characters talking at once, but unlike Woody at his best, or worst for that matter, without the relief of witty repartee and to no satisfying end. About half-way through I was checking my watch, and fighting the urge to stand up and bawl “SHUT UP!” at the screen. Not that I had to fight too hard. I am a well-restrained soul, conditioned to hide my inner roiling at even the worst of times. Which this wasn’t. But…
There’s a limit to how much comedy can be extracted from characters who do not share a common language misunderstanding each other, talking at cross purposes, unwittingly dropping clangers through incorrect use of words or phrases in the foreign tongue etc. That limit is reached early on, but some incompetent editor evidently failed to give the whisper to screenwriter/director Julie Delpy. And as charming and pleasant as Delpy is onscreen, she can’t possibly compensate for the shortcomings of the crappy amateurish script – and neither can the other performers, valiantly though they try.
The abundant nationality-based gags also quickly wear thin (Oi! Editor!). The big problem is the depiction of the French visitors as some grotesquely exaggerated Anglo stereotype of The Continental. You know – oh so open about sex (and bodily function generally), oh so liberated from the straitjacket of reserve that supposedly characterises Anglo cultures, oh so disarmingly and confrontingly honest, and of course, so golly-damned…’ow you zay… WACKY.
One of Papa Jeannot’s opening lines is that he needs his own secluded area of the apartment to jerk off in. This bloke looks like a demented Santa out of uniform – we’re not talking horny adolescent here. The jerk-off line, which I guess is supposed to derive its humour from being outrageous and unexpected, is one of many miscued try-hard attempts at comedy based on the Continental predisposition to speak out that which Anglos wouldn’t dare. Yawn.
The sister, Rose, spends much of her screen time sashaying about in a Tshirt and nothing else, or lounging on a sofa with said T riding up around her whizzer. In between, she’s in and out of the shower – on one occasion au naturel at Mingus’ door asking where the towels are. He is predictably aghast, and it’s mildly amusing I suppose, coming early in the film before the suspicion has been confirmed that you’re watching a barker. Rose is an eyeful, so that’s a bonus – for some of us, at least. But like all the French characters in the movie, she’s one-dimensional; she hasn’t much going for her other than her exposed bod. Some might retort that that’s enough, to which I am inclined to agree.
Her boyfriend, Manu, is another matter entirely. What a jerk (and an unfunny one)! This 30-something twit invites a dealer off the street into the apartment and scores a bag of choof in front of the kids, behaves obsequiously towards Mingus because he idealises “brothers” and wishes he was black, and generally behaves like an over-aged stray off the set of a French version of Porkys.
One of many parts of the script that should have been scrubbed out of existence with a ferociously applied red pen: Mingus has a life-sized colour cutout of Obama in his room, which he consults and confides in as the visiting family begins to take its toll on him. WTF? Not funny. Silly.
As this mess of a movie lurches and stumbles its wayward and tedious path to completion, you wonder about Delpy’s intention. Has she merely failed to endow her characters with endearing qualities, contrary to her objective? Or does she despise her countrymen? Is this her way of wreaking vengeance upon them, presenting them as crass, unsophisticated, loudmouth urban bumpkins? For that is how they come across – something like a pale French equivalent of the Aussie bogan.
Towards the end, loose bits are tied up, sibling differences are more or less resolved, and we’re left with a mildly satisfying (dramatically) but twee and unconvincing message that the raison d’être of the movie is to affirm the core values and importance of family. The destination is not worth the pain of the journey, frankly.
For some, the performances might be enough to carry the piece through. Old Delpy, in particular, has fun, and his enthusiasm is infectious – ah, who am I kidding? Performances are just about irrelevant when the characters are this irritating. But who knows…there’s no accounting for taste.
Me, I’m ultra script-sensitive, and the one on which this flick is based is a crock that I found hard to tolerate. That, the misfiring attempts at comedy, and the blatant plundering of Woody’s style to such lame effect finished it for me.
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