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Christmas, family, and infidelity. Yvette's husband has died, and her grown daughters join her at the grave: Sonia, wealthy, bourgeois, and generous; Louba, living with their dad Stanislas, singing at a Russian restaurant, penniless, the mistress for the past 12 years of a man who will never leave his wife; Milla, the youngest, acerbic, lonesome. Christmas was when they learned their parents were divorcing 25 years ago. Over the next few days, yuletide depression, Louba's pregnancy, Sonia's crumbling marriage, Stanislas's overtures to Yvette, and Milla's attraction to the man who's her father's rent-free lodger lead each one to re-examine self, family, and hopes. Is renewal possible? Written by
Three sisters of Russian parentage; one married but not too happily, one having an affair with a married man who'll never leave his wife and one without a man at all and unhappy; all three longing for something ... I like to think that Daniele Thompson wrote this charmer with her tongue in her cheekhov but who knows. What I do know is that together with son Christopher Thompson, who also has a featured role, she has hit one out of the park in her first at bat. We shouldn't be too surprised, she wrote her first screenplay at the age of 24 and Le Grande Vadrouille, directed by her father and ex-actor Gerard Oury was one of the biggest hits in France and is still aired regularly. Along the way she has written such comedies as La Folie de grandeurs, Le Cerveau, Les Adventures de Rabbi Jacob plus the more mainstream Cousin, Cousine, La Boum, Les Marmottes, La Reine Margot, Belle Maman, Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train (Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train) and Decalage Horaire, solid credits whichever way you slice it. La Buche begins on December 20, with a funeral. The widow, Yvette (Francoise Fabian) is joined initially by two of her daughters, Louba (Sabine Azema) the eldest and Sonia (Emmanuelle Beart), the middle one. With the ceremony all but over the youngest, Milla (Charlotte Gainsbourg) arrives wearing a miniskirt, as Sonia bitches to Louba later. The deceased is, in fact, the stepfather of the three girls, their parents having been divorced some 25 years previously. The respective characters are limmned economically and expertly. Sonia, the successful one who buys groceries wholesale to save FF300, Louba the hopeless romantic who sings Russian songs in a Russian restaurant and has been involved with a married man, Gilbert (Jean-Pierre Larroussin) for 12 years and Milla, the youngest and most rebellious who is also successful but chooses to live, according to Sonia, in a rat hole. The film chronicles the family during the build-up to Christmas and naturally everyone has their own problems; Louba, at 42, has become pregnant but feels unable to tell her lover - Gilbert is an up-market estate agent and their trysts take place in well-appointed apartments in between sales and Thompson extracts a little gently mileage out of Azema bringing her own bed linen and packing it the next morning - Sonia's marriage is on the rocks, Milla is so lonely she canvasses casual work colleagues as to their availability for Christmas whilst Stanislaus, the girl's natural father, who during his marriage was a serial adulterer, remains bitter even after 25 years and subjects Louba, who lives with him, to an ongoing barrage of bile. Even the tenant, Joseph (Christopher Thompson), who has become an unofficial carer for Stanislaus, has problems in the shape of ex-wife Annabelle (Isabelle Carre) who has custody except at Christmas when she is reluctant to surrender it. Thompson weaves these separate strands expertly into a huge, warm blanket and contrives to deal with most if not all of the problems. A stunning debut with acting honors divided equally with all hands well worth five stars. 8/10
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