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Alain Chabat is excellent as usual, what a Prince Charming he makes, lol ! Liked Catherine Frot and Claude Brasseur too. I don't know why I expected them to become mean with Chouchou any minute, but they were adorable too. Roschdy Zem in an unusual role, he was great too.
This is not the best comedy ever, but I really liked the light tone and originality. Cute.
During the screening, "La cage aux folles" came into my mind and i think that it was ten times better. It had a good story and didnt overuse of a particular character in "funny" situations, no matter how stupid the way is that leads to these situations.
The accent and the French loaded with untranslatable jokes make all the fun: the story touches us for the warmth but the storytelling is a laugh riot. Gad is a true master when it comes to accents and the 'country guy' trying to fit in Gay Paris is absolutely priceless. I'll spare you the broken French because it won't ring a bell, but there's a moment where he speaks about a game show question: "how do you call people who don't eat meat?", he answers "poor people!" That bit got the most laughs; it defines the character as it's hilarious in a naive, touching way.
So there were great expectations surrounding Merzouak Allouache' "Chouchou" (co-written with Gad), because within a five-minute sketch, the public had a character with a back-story, funny speech mannerisms, friends and dreams, a likable guy played by a likable comedian. But for all the premises it carried, the film just forgot to have a story. Not to lecture the reader with a screen writing course, but if you're not intending to make a silly comedy with 10 gags per minute, then you need a story, and what drives the story? Conflicts. And conflicts, there were none.
Ever since "Chouchou" starts, everyone he meets is receptive to his pleas: he's hosted by a benevolent priest played by Claude Brasseur, he meets defiance with Brother Jean (played by Roshdy Zem) but they get along pretty quickly. Later, he gets a job as a help to a psychoanalyst played by Catherine Frot. She's open-minded and allows him to open his heart and tell his story. You know "I'm just a poor boy, from a poor family" and the whole rhapsody, concluding with his dream of becoming a woman. The doctor promises to treat him as such, and from that day, he can work dressed like a woman. Naturally, Chouchou reacts "like a woman" and is moved to tears.
Finally, Chouchou meets friends from the country, who are transvestites in Paris and all sing in a cabaret called "The Apocalypse". They get him a night job, and this is where Chouchou finds his love in Stanislas, a bourgeois mustached guy, played by Alain Chabat. And guess what? Stan's parents are totally okay with the relationship. Actually, that's the biggest problem with "Chouchou", it's too good-hearted for its own good, everything works so well that the characters, who're all well-played, become insignificant, and cause Allouache and Gad to add some pointless filler-subplots (one involving Jean's hallucinations) and worse than all, a weak villain.
A gay Arab illegal immigrant can be a source of conflicts as much as gags, but all they came up with was an obsessive cop, indulging at a point to an embarrassingly bad maniac laugh, and to be defeated in a very anticlimactic and cheap resolution. "Chouchou" is almost a school-case of why a story can't do without true antagonism. Chouchou has dreams and goals, but nothing really undermines them, people fix his problems, and he doesn't evolve, he simply gets what he wants, and I'm not sure he made people evolve either as they were good from the start. There's just a feeling of emptiness in the story aggravated by the dryness in gags.
As for Gad's performance, it's good but as good as the scene calls for (good acting doesn't mean a good scene). Chouchou talks like a woman, walks like a woman, stares like a woman, starts crying when he hears 'I love you' like a wait a minute, do all women behave like that? With the finesse of a tightrope walker, Gad manages to avoid caricature, yet the film insists too much on his femininity. And don't get me started on his friends (one of them played by Gad's brother Arié), they talk about the shoes they bought, the cream they use and ululate like Oriental women. As Ebert said, "there's a limit to how long a gimmick can be maintained" even if it's part of the characters.
"Chouchou" features many drag-singing moments, and these are very well-made scenes (and well-chosen songs) but I was always puzzled by the love-at-first-sight moment. Gad had the make-up and the stare right, except that he looked rather awkward, as if he forgot a wig. I know, I shouldn't assume that he's supposed to always look like a woman, I just think there was something confusing about it, in the way it drove the romance. I'm not sure whether Stanislas falls in love with Chouchou the man, or the man dressed as a woman, or the woman trapped in a male body. Is it homosexuality, transvestite-fetishism or even latent heterosexuality?
The fact that the film leaves this question unanswered proves that no one really cared about it, as if the insistence on playing guys showing their feminine side was the guarantee of the 'acceptance' message delivery. Well, I'm sorry, but the end speaks differently and not in favor of the movie. When the two lovers run toward each other in slow motion and in a meadow-looking setting, it's so schmaltzy, so syrupy that there's no way this cheesiness wasn't deliberate and meant in a semi-parodist way. At the end, the actors smile as if they were thinking 'finally, we did it'. And that's that, they had fun playing drags and feminine guys but the game was over.
Ultimately, there was more poignancy, humor and sincerity in the five minute of the original stage sketch than the one-hundred minutes of "Chouchou". It's a shame because such a sweet and complex character deserved better.