The Shiny Shrimps

 

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A French film about a gay water-polo team offers the kind of light entertainment now rare in gay cinema.

 

The Shiny Shrimps

  

Back in 1978, France gave us a classic gay comedy in La Cage aux Folles. That film was significant for drawing in non-gay audiences who nevertheless found themselves identifying with a gay couple through a shared longing for the downfall of a man akin to a male version of England's Mary Whitehouse (he was a leading representative of a group called the Union of Moral Order). By comparison, The Shiny Shrimps, also a gay comedy from France, is forgettable and likely to appeal mainly to gay audiences. Indeed, some may think that my rating for this piece by Maxime Govare and Cédric Le Gallo is decidedly over-generous. But the fact is that this is a warm-hearted piece of froth which knows exactly what it wants to do and which will give pleasure to those who in these worrying times just want to relax with a light-toned movie that offers a fun time.

 

The odd title is explained by the fact that it is the name of a gay water-polo team from France who set out to compete in an international Gay Games event in Croatia. Apparently, the film was inspired by just such a real-life team. However, an invented storyline centres on the fact that a swimming champion, having disgraced himself by making homophobic remarks in public, has been required to make good by becoming the team's coach. This is Matthias Le Goff played by Nicolas Gob and the team in question, one founded by Jean (Alban Lenoir), is supposedly an inept one despite which they win their first match as soon as they get to Croatia. In any case, they are underdogs and the audience wants them to succeed.

 

That's a familiar kind of set-up for a comedy and The Shiny Shrimps doesn't deal in realism although it consciously touches, albeit lightly, on issues that could have been treated in a drama. Thus one team member (Michaël Abiteboul) is realising that his sporting commitments are disrupting his home life with a partner and their two children, a youngster (Félix Martinez) is taking his first steps in the gay world and Fred (Romain Brau) is transgender and not fully accepted by all on the team. But only one serious matter - the fact that one participant has hidden a fatal cancer diagnosis - is actually developed as crucial to the plot. In a film not afraid to bring in musical numbers on occasion, the larger-than-life nature of it hardly allows this tonal shift to come over effectively, but that does not count as a major flaw. Gay audiences will be well satisfied by the predictable way in which Matthias for all his earlier homophobic comments changes his outlook (his young daughter played by Maïa Quesemand has been engagingly supportive of gay men from the start) and even more will they relish the finale which goes all the way in delivering a musical production number. It's all far from sophisticated but, without hiding the fact that gay people can still be confronted by problems, The Shiny Shrimps offers the kind of lightweight and essentially escapist gay entertainment that has not been around on screen for some time. The right audience will enjoy it.

 

Original title: Les crevettes pailletées.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Nicolas Gob, Alban Lenoir, Michaël Abiteboul, David Bärot, Romain Lancry, Roland Menou, Geoffrey Couët, Romain Brau, Félix Martinez, Maïa Quesemand, Pierre Samuel.

 

Dir Maxime Govare and Cédric Le Gallo, Pro Renaud Chélélékian and Edouard Duprey, Screenplay Maxime Govare and Cédric Le Gallo with Romain Choay, from an idea by Cédric Le Gallo, Ph Jérôme Alméras, Pro Des Nicolas Migot, Ed Samuel Denési, Music Thomas Couzinier and Frédéric Kooshmanian.

 

Les Improductibles/Kaly Productions/Universal Pictures International/Canal+/Ciné+-Peccadillo  Pictures.
103 mins. France. 2019. Rel: 6 September 2019. Cert. 15.