This first effort from Steve Suissa has certainly a biopic whiff because it originates from some vivid memories. Prior to this very so-so film, he cut his teeth in cinema as an actor, in many cases in small parts. And before this, he went assiduously to the movies like his main protagonist, Stan (Clément Sibony). As he said: "I went a lot to the movies and the movies I watched helped me to answer questions I asked myself about life". Cinema served him as a guide for his walk of life.
However, I do not think that his first offering as a director "l'Envol" is a movie to remember. It even falls short of the mark. The umpteenth story of a teenager who is persuaded that he was born to be an actor has been told and told over and over again before. Instead of embarking in uncharted waters, Suissa sedately films a more than mundane story by following an ultra mapped out scheme and everything seems telegraphed. So, Stan is a moody teenager who after he saw his best friend dying before his eyes decides to make his dream come true. He leaves a sultry familial cocoon who of course considers his intention to become an actor as a folly to settle down in a little seedy room, has drama lessons. But if one wants to become a great actor like Robert De Niro (in one scene, Stan with his female partner Julie (Isabelle Carré) rehearses a scene from "the Godfather" (1972) before his drama teacher (Francis Huster), first one has to read and pore over great playwrights like Samuel Beckett. Stan will be bent on doing this. Then, he struggles hard to get a role in a play, a film or a made-for-TV film until... In parallel, his grandfather (Bernard Fresson) has a seizure and is compelled to go to the hospital. Enough in enough! It's a menu that smells the reheated and which encompasses faded ingredients like the impending feuds between Stan and his family, one of Stan's leisure is boxing (how original), the obligatory love affair which also reproduced in real life between the two lovebirds. In 2000, Sibony was dating Carré. But also, one member of Stan's family wants to marry his girlfriend who belongs to another social-cultural background to the discontentment of Bernard Fresson and Stan's family. A heap of clichés serves as the scenario.
Another major flaw which handicaps Suissa's effort is the presentation of the secondary characters, especially Stan's family. His relationships are treated in a glib way. The parents' features especially the father's are so gross that it makes certain sequences unbearable to watch. The father is so formidable and daft that he is a grotesque caricature. As for the mother, she isn't totally opposed to Stan's desire but to stay in good terms with her son and to limit impending feuds, she prefers to agree her husband. It's sheer rubbish. But Suissa's flip way of introducing his characters also goes against Bernard Fresson, an obnoxious and a bit tyrannic butcher. He's too subtle an actor to content himself with such a cardboard character. And Francis Huster's part in underwritten. He's an excellent thespian and he proved it in Francis Veber's delicious "Dîner De Cons" (1998). But here he doesn't really shine.
5/10. It's the mark I would grant to Suissa's effort and I'm indulgent. At a pinch, the energy Clément Sibony conveys to his mercurial character would be enough to watch this flick but don't expect too much. He seems to have palpable skills of actor in spite of setbacks like the lousy "Promenons-Nous Dans Les Bois" (2000) which reached the streets virtually in the same time as "l'Envol".
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