Although living a comfortable life in Salon-de-Provence, a charming town in the South of France, Julie has been feeling depressed for a while. To please her, Philippe Abrams, a post office ... See full summary »
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
David O. Russell
Robert De Niro
Although living a comfortable life in Salon-de-Provence, a charming town in the South of France, Julie has been feeling depressed for a while. To please her, Philippe Abrams, a post office administrator, her husband, tries to obtain a transfer to a seaside town, on the French Riviera, at any cost. The trouble is that he is caught red-handed while trying to scam an inspector. Philippe is immediately banished to the distant unheard of town of Bergues, in the Far North of France. Leaving his child and wife behind, the crucified man leaves for his frightening destination, a dreadfully cold place inhabited by hard-drinking, unemployed rednecks, speaking an incomprehensible dialect called Ch'ti. Philippe soon realizes that all these ideas were nothing but prejudices and that Bergues is not synonymous with hell... Written by
As a French film lover, I had to discover this little film which was surrounded by much hype and now ranks among the 5 most profitable movies launched in France. Otherwise, people would have told me: "what? You haven't seen Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'Ti's? Everyone's talking about it. It's terrific". So terrific that it turned the small town of Berck into an unlikely tourist attraction and a few months ago I ate a delicious "Maroual" tart! Without mentioning verbal expressions that are now used in French common language like "Biloute". I went to see it also partly because I had enjoyed Dany Boon's first effort as a director: "la Maison Du Bonheur" (2006) even if I especially smiled than laughed.
I'm a little baffled that this film which isn't that much original made itself known in virtually every French house. The premise of a man who has to cope with a new and supposedly hostile world has been used thousands of times before in cinema. At first, Boon follows an apparently mapped scheme. Kad Merad is anguished at the idea to spend a part of his professional life in Northern France where it is supposed to rain every day and where inhabitants appear to be sullen. But then, things aren't what he believes them to be: it's often sunny and people are generally charming. But as he wants to avoid a breakdown to his wife, Merad lies to her until one day she joins him in the Nord Pas De Calais.
What I like in Boon's effort is that it recycles the clichés linked to this French area to boost laughter and it often works. I dig the moments when Merad is on the highway (to hell?) and as soon as he arrives in the Nord Pas De Calais, it starts to rain. When Merad also tries to help Boon to solve his problem with alcohol, it's quite funny too. I would also quote the moments with humorist Patrick Bosso as a cop who stops twice Merad on the highway and its results. Boon's directing should also be praised for taking some of his clichés into unexpected territories like when Boon announces to Line Renaud that he wants to marry his girlfriend. And when Merad's wife comes to visit him in Northern France, Dany Boon thumbs the nose at the ones who have a dogged vision of dreary Northern France.
There's no denying that Boon is deeply attached to his native area. His love for it transpires in virtually every plan where we can see parts of the town and its inhabitants. It's obvious that he feels much more at ease in directing and acting than in its previous effort where secondary roles almost stole him the show. He manages to convey tenderness for his characters to the viewer. However, like in "la Maison Du Bonheur", I especially smiled than laughed. The sole moment where I was dead laughing was when Merad pretends to be disabled to have his promotion even if this trick isn't new.
But Boon's effort is better than his first one thanks to his control over directing (one can admire the contrast when Merad enjoys being in joyful Northern France and when he has to go back to Nice to find again his depressed wife), clichés and also the performance as a whole. It's also comforting that such a film rode high at the French box office while other productions that were likely to be successes failed in spite of a conspicuous publicity campaign like "Astérix Aux Jeux Olympiques" (2008). And it's a film that should definitely reduce the detractors of Northern France to silence. So, I liked "Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'Ti's" but I doubt whether I would want to watch it again.
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