Take one pragmatic prostitute. Mix with a balding, nondescript office worker with a heart condition who has just won the lottery. Add the whore’s jealous pimp husband, the shlub’s envious best friend and an undersexed neighbor. Shake well, and voilà: instant farce. However, Blier doesn’t do farce the conventional way. He likes to change up the usual door-slamming wackiness with unexpected moments of serious emotion.
The jokes are predictable, but the delivery is wonderfully weird. François (Campan, très droll) may not be Casanova, but of course his tender brand of loving wins over the jaded Daniela (Bellucci, gamely playing the sexy high-class whore of a male fantasy). Her gun-toting pimp (Depardieu, playing broader than a barn) becomes insanely jealous of her new lover. And naturally all the dire warnings about heart attacks delivered by François’s best friend and doctor André (Darroussin, matching Campan in deadpan delivery) are misplaced. No surprises there.
But Blier’s execution has a weird topspin. He plays some of the silliest scenes like high drama, complete with Verdi scoring and expressive lighting. It takes awhile to get used to the way he shifts from the silly to the sad (André’s touching monologue about his nonsexual love for a woman dying of cancer), but we rather like the strangeness of it all, and the healthily casual treatment of sex. “Asses are meant to be touched,” as one character explains. “This is France.”