Take a Drink: whenever somebody says something incredibly forward
Take a Drink: for slurs
Take a Drink: for drug use
Take a Drink: whenever a character does
Take a Drink: whenever Castella does something embarrassing
Do a Shot: whenever somebody is brutally honest
Do a Shot: whenever Clara’s stage voice throws you off
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
France is one of the most prolific producers of comedies in the world, but very few of them seem to cross the Atlantic, with the odd exception like The Intouchables…
That… that’s not even remotely a word.
… and the latest diminishing returns from quirk factories Michel Gondry and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It’s too bad, because The Taste of Others proved 15 years ago that the French comic sensibility will travel, given a chance.
The film follows six interconnected characters as they pursue ill-matched affairs- a married philistine businessman and an independent, artistic snob, his wife and her froofy dog, I guess, and the businessman’s driver and ex-cop temporary bodyguard and a drug-dealing bartender. This all goes about as well as you’d think it would.
First off, Flucky is the best dog name ever.
Yep, looks like a Flucky to me.
Besides its hard-core animal-naming skills, Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnes Jaoui’s (who also directs) script is one of those small-scale, but sneakily powerful deals, and doesn’t skimp on its verbose comedy of manners and social expectations. It’s funny and affecting in equal measure, hyper-conversational (get ready to read some subtitles unless you’re a native francophone) but very well-sketched and insightful, building to some incisive character moments when hard truths are faced.
That there are so many truths to be found stems from the fact that all of these characters are lying to themselves to some degree, not just poor erstwhile cheating scumbag Castella, who’ll never be one of the hipster cool kids however much he tries, but also the ex-cop and the drug dealer in ever imagining their affair could work, nice guy/driver Bruno in ignoring how out of the game he is, and even Castella’s wife with her hideous interior design skills she tries to impose on her sister-in-law in the name of charity.
A more Lovecraftian hellscape there never was.
Jaoui presides over her world with a steady hand, nice eye, and tight tonal control. The way she stages the theatrical temporary mindfuck of a finale in particular shows a director with chutzpah to spare.
In the end, though, its pleasures and observations feel slight. The ex-cop/drug dealer romance is particularly superfluous, but even if the film focused fully on the snobby artistes getting their due for their hurtful attitudes, that’s hardly a revelation, especially when you consider how we spent the preceding two hours laughing right along with them at Castella’s uncomfortable advances.
Jaoui does not hesitate to throw you in the deep end right away, and with the rapid-fire subtitled conversation and multi-character plot strands, confusion is the rule for the first twenty-odd minutes.
The Taste of Others is a sharp, if a little slight, French relationships comedy that makes the case for inclusiveness.