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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
Every year, American TV serves up so-called holiday fare, meaning made-for-TV movies about Brady Bunch-like families getting together for Christmas. Most are so forgettable that they get thrown out faster than used Christmas wrapping.
The French are in general much better at dealing on film with human relationships and the complexities of modern families and so I guess it should come as no surprise that they put together a far more engrossing story of a Christmas gathering.
Daniele Thompson's "La Buche" delves into the complex relationships in one family which is just days away form Christmas when the stepfather dies. The film opens humorously at his funeral, which for some is a time of mourning and for others,just a great, big inconvenience.
There are three intriguing daughters in this family and all of them lead complex lives, propelled along by the same thing that propels most French films -- love. The oldest daughter, played by Sabine Azema, is a 42-year old singer in a Russian cabaret who has been having an affair for 12 years with a married man. The middle sister, Emmanuelle Beart, is the woman who appears to have everything: beauty, wealth, husband, kids and the kind of controlling personality that keeps them all dancing to her tune. The youngest sister, Charlotte Gainsberg, is a vaguely rebellious young, motorcycle riding loner who has no man of her own, but would like one. Then there's their real father, Claude Riche, a guy who apparently during his active years bedded more women than Magic Johnson.
American holiday movies usually include some family members in crisis and a lot of family members sharing recriminations about past transgressions. "La Buche" serves up its share of both, but with a French twist. Everyone in this family has their share of sins to confess and forgiveness to seek and in some cases, even monumental decisions to face. But they all seem to do it not only with style and grace, but with a lot of humor thrown in for good measure. If this holiday film has a message, it seems to be that you can make the best of any situation if you try hard enough.
The acting and directing here are first rate and the characters, especially the three daughters, are so intriguing you almost don't want the film to end. You want to find out how all three daughters handle the changes coming to their lives.
That's probably the best thing you can say about any film and hats off to director Thompson for making it so with "La Buche."
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