C'est la vie!

 

starstarstarhalf

 


A new comedy from the team that scored with Untouchable.

   

C'est la vie!

Gilles Lellouche

  

The title above, one adopted in this country and borne by at least three other films, is not the one that was used in France. The change may well have been made on the basis that the phrase “C’est la vie!” is pleasingly familiar here and therefore preferable to this comedy’s original title, Le Sens de la Fête. It looks like another potential hit for Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache who, as writers and directors, had a major success in 2011 with Untouchable but fared less well with their 2014 follow-up Samba. They have now come up with a very promising concept indeed, albeit one that is not quite successfully sustained. This could well mean that C’est la vie! will do much better than Samba without proving to be as popular as Untouchable which, it is true to say, became something of a phenomenon.

 

This time around, the film turns on one principal character, a caterer named Max Angély played by Jean-Pierre Bacri. We meet him in an engaging pre-credit episode that finds him miffed by clients who, realising that their plans were too extravagant, suddenly want to cut down drastically on the proposed arrangements for their wedding reception. Once past this appealing comic opening, Toledano and Nakache lead us directly into a narrative about a truly lavish reception in a chateau outside Paris and this location then dominates the film with the event taking place during a single evening but one that does not end until the early hours of the morning. Max is in charge but his maxim - “We keep calm and we adapt`’ - is put to the test time and time again as things threaten to go wrong. There are tensions amongst Max’s staff, a replacement singer quickly irritates the groom, various personal relationships are in flux, technical mishaps occur and - not least of the troubles - it turns out that the conceited groom (Benjamin Lavernhe) is determined to give a carefully prepared but interminable speech.

 

What all this comes to is that the situation is essentially farcical and, with Bacri quite properly playing it straight and with a strong supporting cast adding to the pleasure, the various mishaps provide for an attractive comic piece that unfolds against an elegant setting. For the first half the film carries everything off well, but farce needs to build and furthermore it needs pace. Unfortunately the running time of nearly two hours is overindulgent and even more tiresomely, there are fleeting moments when the film seems to turn more serious (this is particularly unfortunate when a tirade by Max puts him in a very unappealing light ahead of the film’s inevitable happy ending). Consequently, one ends up rather disappointed, but that is largely because so much of the film works so well. Good comedies are rare so this one should not be ignored despite having some weaknesses.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jean-Paul Rouve, Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Macaigne, Eye Haidara, Suzanne Clement, Alban Ivanov, Hélène Vincent, Benjamin Lavernhe, Judith Chemla, William Lebghil.

 

Dir Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, Pro Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou and Laurent Zeltoun, Screenplay Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, Ph David Chizallet, Art Dir Mathieu Vadepied, Ed Dorian Rigal Ansous, Music Avishai Cohen, Costumes Isabelle Pannetier.

  
Gaumont/Quad+Ten/TF1 Films Production/Main Journey/Canal+/Ciné+-Cinefile.
115 mins. France/Belgium/Canada. 2016. Rel: 31 August 2018. Cert. 15.