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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
I laughed out loud with this move, and certainly, I didn't expect it.
Sometimes we forget how important it is to have a good plot. Nothing turns out badly, but there are some happy surprises. The best is how the Ch'Tis play on the "brute, simple, vulgar" stereotype to their advantage. It'd be a crime to say more. Witness the "cat as food", spitting, Philippe's appalling house decoration.
Another thing I liked it is that they don't "become" somebody else. I mean, in the end you see people turn out and behave as what they are. The Abrams are not Ch'Tis, and they are wary of outsiders. I'm not saying anything important, but I think sociologically it makes it more valuable and respectful. It has the perfect moderate amount of conflict for making it interesting besides the "chic vs coarse" theme. Antoine's induced alcoholism, his love interest for Annabelle, his overbearing but loving "maman", Julie's neurosis, always finding fault at everything Philippe does, him lying all the time, finally for no reason.
Kad Merad is one of the best comedy actors I've ever seen. He's got a natural talent for mimicking and copying all their local pronunciation, accents, and even ways of having fun. His scam with "neurological twitching" included was masterful.
Dany Boon is of course perfect, his face says it all. They have good talks despite being utterly different. Great scene of male friendship, that form of art, at the beach and "not crying" later. His two sidekicks steal the show. Even their way of dressing is just perfect. Both young women of the film are beautiful, specially Anne Marivin, always bustling with activity. I'd have liked Zoé Félix to have more to say than just grouch and be a pain, until her nice acknowledgment near the end (that she may also have something to do with all this). The funny copper Patrick Bosso has one of those vital small roles that differentiate a good from a great film. Notice how the speed at which he drives is a function of Philippe's moods :).
Line Renaud, from "Le silence de l'épervier" (TV) among others, is beautiful as an intrusive and contradictory (witness Anabelle's face at the post office, the only time they "speak") mum who, in a way, "only wants the best for her sun", but harasses poor Antoine following him to his dead end job with food and constantly fearing he'd be ill but, her serious talk with him was so matter-of-fact, (while peeling potatoes, mind you!) that his face of relief afterwards is worth the price of the ticket.
If you have family or friends in the province, you've probably feel as Philippe does. They are wary, probably will give you a couple headaches with their "sense of humour" and yes, they "eat strangely", but with their heart and warmth they'll probably more than make up for it.
Try to follow their French. I'd say 60% of the fun is there. It's carefully geared so as for you to "learn the codes". They even teach you how to speak and "translate" the language, twice. Which consists of letter replacement and pronunciation as well as particles that just "don't mean anything", social rules "they invite you in when you drop by", and even intonation (the "from the guts" interjection in the end). In short, if you play moderate attention you'll end up speaking like' em. Or at least, understanding it perfectly and using its funny way of speaking outside the cinema. I suppose it's a matter of why and how we learn. They are SO friendly and honest, these people, that you end up wanting them. And when you feel safe and in company, you learn twice, right :)!
"dbdumonteil" on IMDb as usual, wrote a great review, I won't touch on the topics he did.
I'm very glad that this film is a commercial success. I also liked the latest Asterix iteration, but this one probably has more humane content. Here in Argentina we can't be so picky about European/ French cinema. What comes is little and far between, so one just watches everything. This, with "Le diner des cons" is probably the best French comedy I've seen. The "Les Bronzés" series was also smashing, but it somehow lacked "somebody to identify with". Something this film has plenty of.
Wisely it doesn't even touch social issues like unemployment and redneck political views. Consequently, achieving a bigger, almost universal "market share".
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