Film review: ‘C’EST LA VIE’, by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

French film Ces’t La Vie is supposedly a comedy but works better as a study in workplace chaos.

Set amid an elaborate wedding reception in the sprawling gardens of a French chateau, the film sees catering company boss and ring master Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri) desperately try to control an endless stream of disasters. Staff flirt with guests, people suffer food poisoning, the groom is an insufferable bastard and there’s a seething turf war between Max’s 2IC and the obstreperous wedding singer. As the situation threatens to implode, Max comes close to a breakdown and dreams of giving it all away.

As an attempted comedy, C’est la vie has two major problems: it’s not very funny and the constant manic squabbling that passes for dialogue is grating. It tries to emulate some of the farcical elements of Fawlty Towers with catering disasters, rude guests and the threat of food inspectors but the comedy never clicks.

While it doesn’t work particularly well as comedy, the accumulated calamities provide a reasonably involving workplace drama. There are also a couple of magical set pieces including a seductive musical segment toward the end.

If would have worked better, though, had the characters been more involving and sympathetic. As the central figure, Max isn’t particularly likeable; he’s just a fed-up middle-aged grump. Also, the other characters don’t make a big enough impression because the drama is spread across too many people. This particularly dilutes the impact of the attempted romances as it’s hard to form any emotional attachment to the characters.

Ces’t La Vie could have been a bracing comedy/drama but like the depicted wedding reception, it almost crumbles under the weight of its ambition.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: French comedy/ drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Eric Toledano & Olivier Nakache.

Release date: 9th Aug 2018.

Running time: 117 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

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