Urban Cinefile
"For the most part it's a really prissy sort of poncy job. It's got nothing to do with why you wanted to do it when you were 14 or something - when I wanted to be a spy or an assassin or something."  -Noah Taylor on acting
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Francois Pignon (Patrick Timsit) whose wife Louise (Virginie Ledoyen) has just left him for shrink Edgar Wolf (Pascal Elbe), checks into the same Nice hotel as contract killer Ralf Milan (Richard Berry). Ralf is there to stake out a key witness in a major corruption trial in the law courts opposite the hotel, while Pignon plans to hang himself in the bathroom. Their adjoining rooms bring them together, the perfect killer, and the perfect pain in the ass.

Review by Louise Keller:
Francis Veber's touch of the absurd is in fine form in his latest comedy of errors involving a crim, a hitman, a suicidal jilted husband, his adulterous wife, her shrink lover and the hotel butler. All you have to do is imagine how things could go wrong - and of course they do, in the funniest circumstances. Veber has a light touch and his cast plays out the ridiculous scenario to perfection. It's just one long good-hearted laugh - and a great example of the French farce, delivered with elegance.

Veber sets the scene and introduces the key players. There's Richard Berry's seasoned hit man Jean Milan, whose hotel room window gives a bird's eye view of the Nice courthouse steps. That's where Michel Aumont's Randoni, a well-padded crim under police protection, will soon appear. He is in a van with a SWAT team - a nicely crafted situation ripe with subtle comedic opportunities. Patrick Timsit's distraught suicidal François Pignon is given the room next door to the hitman; there are adjoining doors, and the fun begins. There's a faulty window blind, a cut curtain cord, a collapsing shower rose and when Pignon meets Milan in maladroit circumstances, he takes an unexpected shine to him. The feeling is not reciprocated as an incident involving a window ledge, a fall, a case of mistaken identity just kinda happens. Then we meet Pignon's wife Louise (Virginie Ledoyen), her aggressive shrink lover Dr Wolf (Pascal Elbé), and the hotel butler (Laurent Paolini) who always happens to arrive at the worst possible moment.

Veber prolongs the comedic agony to a comfortable 88 minutes and there are big smiles as the amenable hotel butler repeatedly arrives at the most inappropriate times, mistakenly interpreting different combinations of male bonding as compromising situations. It's essentially a buddy movie and a light hearted one at that. Though it may not have the bite of Veber's classic The Dinner Game (Le Dîner de cons), it's lovely writing in the hands of a cast who know how to deliver and it all adds up to good entertainment.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Recycling his 1973 screenplay (directed by Eduard Molinaro and starring Lino Ventue and Jacques Brel), Francis Veber returns to his more farcical roots here, notably less sophisticated than his biggest success, The Dinner Game. Originally a stage play, the work has all the hallmarks of French farce, with lots of doors opening, which give rise to visual double entendres and other gags.

Patrick Timsit (a French stand up comedian) is a slightly unlikely figure as Louise's (Virginie Ledoyen) husband of 7 years, but he's cast more for his comedic skills than his appearance - although his looks add to the comic effect. His is the high energy role that keeps the film moving forward, as the suicidal husband abandoned by a pretty wife. She - Ledoyen playing naturalist - has gone over to the dark side, moving in with psychiatrist Edgar Wolf (Pascal Elbe), who plays it deadpan, most of the time.

Richard Berry is the hitman, Milan, who has the misfortune to be strategically placed in the room with the best view to his intended target arriving at the courthouse, but sadly for him, adjacent to Pignon's room. This is the physical basis for the comedy, which flings together the ironies of a man trying to kill himself in the room next to a man trying to kill a stranger. Other ironies are used to keep the fun aloft, including a running gag inside the prison van which is carting Randoni the witness, played with comedic timing by veteran Michel Aumont, to the court. These short scenes help break up the hotel room setting and add a sense of the ridiculous to the already slightly surreal fun of the main plot.

The physical comedy works well, and while the farce is perhaps oversize for the screen these days, it is nevertheless an entertaining and genial trip.

Email this article

Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

(France, 2008)


CAST: Richard Berry, Patrick Timsit, Pascal Elbé, Virginie Ledoyen, Laurent Paolini, Michel Aumont

PRODUCER: Patrice Ledoux

DIRECTOR: Francis Veber

SCRIPT: Francis Veber

MUSIC: Jean-Michel Bernard

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes



© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2021