Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2015 4:31 am 
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Oedipal meltdown

In Julie Delpy's new comedy, Violette (Delpy herself) is a forty-year-old workaholic with a career in the fashion industry. Bored and divorced, and at a spa with her best friend Ariane (Karin Viard) she decides to have a fling with successful, but naive provincial computer entrepreneur Jean-René (Dany Boon). It turns into a serious love affair, and can continue since Jen-René has just transferred to Paris. Only her nineteen-year-old son Lolo (Vincent Lacoste), who's just broken up with his girlfriend and takes up residence at home again, has other ideas.

I was reminded by this movie of Tanguy, a masterful, inventive, and relatively tasteful and subtle comedy about something similar, only in reverse. Tanguy is directed by the comic master Étienne Chatiliez (of Life is a Long, Quiet River), and features the legendary Alain Resnais regulars André Dussollier and Sabine Azéma as the parents of the titular Tanguy (Éric Berger). And while Lolo is ready to do anything to get rid of interference in his oedipal attachment to his mom, Tanguy's parents start carrying out a series of measures to force their nearly-thirty son, a Chinese scholar, to move out on his own.

The physical business in Tanguy includes barring the son from using their car; disturbing his sleep; and shrinking his favorite clothes. Chatiliez, helped mightily by his trio of actors, keeps the action specific, droll, and within the realm of the possible. It's also true that as the son, Berger is an interesting character. Tanguy is very smart and quite nice, but we can thoroughly appreciate how his dependence on his parents and noisy lovemaking with a series of young ladies would drive them to distraction too.

Not so with Lolo, a skinny, preening, self-satisfied young sod given to prancing around in colorful jockey shorts whom it's impossible to like for a moment. He fancies himself as a great artist, but the paintings he has done are daubs -- though he gets a gallery show. The measures he adopts to make life unbearable for Jean-René (whom he calls "JR") are such things as drugging him at a party and sprinkling itching powder all over his clothes. Later he enlists a geek pal to sabotage the most important interview of Jean-René's life, involving a major government contract; in fact the geek's trick involves shutting down a major French bank's digital system. These gestures are crude and don't even begin to be plausible.

It seems that like Maïwenn, whose Mon roi I suffered through the other day, Delpy likes messy, over-the-top scenes, and so she resorts to crudeness and slapstick. But she errs in going deep down the borderline creepy oedipal route. Had she played more lightly and subtly with Lolo's feelings of jealousy toward the rustic interloper in his and his mother's sophisticated Parisian lives, an amusing comedy might have resulted. Lolo has some good scenes, and the principals could have been fine (though I'm a bit in doubt about Lacoste, who plays it too broad and is resultingly unable to make his character even slightly sympathetic), but this is not a success -- and owes too much to some of the cruder recent Hollywood comedies.

Lolo, 99 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 2015, also showing at Toronto. It opened in French theaters the day of this screening, Wed., 28 Oct. 2015. Watched at MK2 Odeon. Overall French critics were not too enthusiastic (AlloCiné press rating 3.1), international ones even less so (Metacritic rating 45%).

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