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An upper middle-class French family celebrates a birthday in a restaurant. In one evening and during one meal, family history, tensions, collective and separate grudges, delights, and memories both clash and coalesce. Written by
Eileen Berdon <email@example.com>
The IMDb summary reads: "An upper middle-class French family celebrates a birthday in a restaurant. In one evening and during one meal, family history, tensions, collective and separate grudges, delights, and memories both clash and coalesce." Well, that's right but "upper-class" could be misleading. Upper middle-class, maybe. One brother is an executive, number 4 in a Silicon Valley type firm, but the other runs the bar -- it's more a bar than a restaurant, from what we see -- and it's no great success, more a sign of Henri's lack of ambition (that's Jean-Pierre Bacri) and the sister (Agnès Jaoui) works as an underling at the firm, and her boyfriend is the barman and she seems totally without ambition even to marry, at 30. The exec's wife is a rather ditsy blonde lady. One gets the impression that the family is somewhat going to seed. Henri's wife has just left him, Betty can't commit to anything, Philippe's totally insecure, their mom is a pain... This was a play written by Jaoui and Bacri and is full of their delicious dry humor, pettiness and grumpiness and keen social and psychological observation. I found it very funny but at the same time a bit depressing and somewhat static, since it's a play. To underline the static quality, one of the "charicters" is Caruso, a paralyzed dog. It doesn't "open up" as the 2000 Le goût des autres/The Taste of Others and the 2004 Comme une image/Look at Me do; on the other hand, the focus on personalities is even more precise. The "air" is bad air, but things don't end on a too unhappy note in this gentle, ironic comedy. Now that I'm following French dialogue more carefully, I enjoyed this a lot, including the social nuances I could catch about who gets called "tu" and who gets called "vous" and when. Klapisch keeps the camera moving but unobtrusive, adding a childhood flashback perhaps once too often, framing the story with a street panorama and a warm musical theme. To call Bacri "grumpy" may be redundant. I'm not sure what led Klapisch (who from L'Auberge espagnole seems to have a more lighthearted outlook himself) to direct this, and for Jaoui to start directing her writing with Bacri afterwards with Taste of Others and Look at Me.
The DVD by Fox Lorber is of unusually poor quality. You can't turn the subtitles on and off, and they came out half below the screen. There are virtually no extras.
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