There are filmmakers who batter you with issues—Racism is bad! Poverty sucks! Class structures are antiquated systems of power fueled by economic inequality and are, like, so not awesome!—lest you miss the really, really important points. And then there are the French, who’ve mastered the art of the sideways social critique. In fact, you could plausibly sit through writer-director Agns Jaoui’s latest comedy of manners and miss the chipping away at generational pretensions altogether.
An Algerian hotel clerk (Debbouze) and his videographer buddy (Bacri) convince a female politician (Jaoui) to take part in their documentary on successful women. Nothing goes right: Answers are accidentally unrecorded, interviews are disrupted by deafening sheep bleating, and a rural excursion turns into a career killer. Illicit romances and colonial guilt percolate on the periphery. Everyone has their reasons, their ambitions and their secrets.
Like the bumbling bohemians and self-obsessed yuppies in Jaoui’s The Taste of Others (2000) and Look at Me (2004), the folks in this quiet farce are trying to rise above their stations in life—race and gender (or competence) be damned. But while her focus has drifted away from the upper middle class, Jaoui’s sensibility remains rather middlebrow; there’s the distinct feeling that she’s preaching solely, albeit with impressive subtlety, to the same bourgie choir as before.—David Fear
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