Movie of the week: C’est La Vie
Olivier Nakache and Eric Toleando, the French pair who gave us the monstrous 2012 hit The Intouchables have come up with another brilliant crowdpleaser with this Altman-esque look at a day in the life of a wedding planner. That’s Max (Jean-Paul Bacri), who spends most of the film’s 117 minute run-time in state of garrulous panic, as his lavish wedding reception at a magnificent 17th Century chateau perpetually teeters on the edge of disaster. Everything that could go wrong does. The groom (Benjamin Lavernhe) is a pompous overbearing bore, the mother (Hélène Vincent) an interfering fusspot, the photographer (Jean-Paul Rouve) is only interested in feeding his face with the hors d’oeuvres, the singer (Gilles Lelouche) is a conceited oaf who thinks he’s the French version of James Brown, his potty-mouthed right hand woman Adele (Eye Haidara) is picking fights with the band leader and the main course is about to give everyone food poisoning after someone unplugged the freezer to charge their iPhone. To top it all off, Max becomes convinced a government inspector is lurking amongst the guests checking up on his dubious “off the books” labour-hire practices.
The camera swirls and weaves about through the crowd, catching snippets of inane conversation, sly jokes and witty put-downs as fast as you can read the (very useful) subtitles. Max is constantly on the move too, reminding his staff “to adapt” to whatever crisis is unfolding. That’s his company’s motto, and its made his reputation as a “genius” event planner. But even a genius can’t cope when the groom floats off the estate tied to a balloon after a much-rehearsed climax goes belly up. The action up to this point has been fast and furious, exhausting even – so when the unflappable Max finally explodes and we’re treated to a moment of calm (just a moment), it comes as quite a relief… But only briefly, for the show must got on. And that’s when those Sri Lankan dishwashers (who we’ve already been told are moonlighting musicians) save the night with a fantastic, improvised foot-tapping grand musical finale. Which tops off a hugely buzzy and genuinely funny romp – one that fizzles and pops throughout like good French champagne. M from Aug 16 at local cinemas Palace Norton Street, Palace Central and Dendy Newtown ★★★★
Provocative, angry and often contrarian, Spike Lee’s films are always worth seeing, even his lesser ones. Sadly, despite the five star reviews you’ll see around, this isn’t so great… BlacKkKlansman simply lacks the verve, the vibrancy, brittle energy and even the music of his best work. (Do The Right Thing, the movie Barack Obama took Michelle to on their first date still reigns supreme). Even his reworked She’s Gotta Have It, now a Netflix series, has more edginess and sheer chutzpah than this festival fave. That’s not to say its message, that the racism espoused by the KKK in the 70s is still present and deeply embedded in Trump’s America – isn’t right on the money. It’s just that here it’s delivered in a ham-fisted way, one that arguably, could even be counterproductive.
As is well known, this is the true story of an African-American cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who successfully infiltrated a Klu Klux Klan branch in Denver with the help of his white (but importantly also Jewish) partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) in the 70s. The Klan chapter is made up of ugly ignorant rednecks who prattle stupidly about their own superiority while spouting grievances about their “way of life” being undermined by the Jews and blacks (they use another word). Though there is tension involved, there’s never any sense that the cops are in any danger – the Klansmen (and one overweight woman) are mere buffoons – misogynistic, pompous and dumb. The plot is a rather strange, hybrid mix of cop-buddy drama and tone-death comedy, and throughout, Lee reminds us in some not very subtle jabs, that this is the present he’s talking about. Those jokes will get some big laughs – they did at the film festival (100% white, left-liberal, affluent) crowd I saw it with. Ha ha, we collectively chuckled, those dopey working class clowns are the same ones (actually around 50% of the US voting public) who elected the 45th president!
Well, yes…. Err… But hang on, if that disastrous result taught us anything, wasn’t it was that to sneer at your “deplorable” opponents is the surest way to lose the fight? Lee makes his movies to blast home a point – to change a situation he (correctly) views as appalling. Unfortunately, for all this one’s other merits (and there are quite a few, any Spike Lee film is entertaining), in this case he’s scored an own goal. MA15+ from Aug 16 at local cinemas Palace Norton Street, Palace Central, Broadway, Rhodes and Dendy Newtown ★★★
Not to be confused with the (equally troublesome) NEG, this Hollywood/Chinese co-production is about a giant breed of killer shark – the Megalodon – previously thought to be extinct. Well, it is, but the very lucrative Chinese appetite for multiplex blockbusters has arranged for it to be brought back to life. Basically the Meg is a humongous Zeppelin-sized hunk of grey flubber with a fin, razor sharp choppers and a very big appetite. Starring Jason Stratham as grizzled deep sea rescue expert and Li Bingbing as his boss (and unlikely love interest) at a marine research mission, its the sort of movie reviewers love to hate – competing amongst themselves to write the wittiest and most scathing put-downs. Well, at the packed critic’s screening I attended, they sniggered and whooped and gasped at the cheesy jokes, gorily stupid horror scenes and jump scares on cue, which kinda indicates director Jon Turteltaub has got the combo of those vital ingredients at least partially right.
Much of the fun is guessing which of the cast of characters we’re introduced to in the rather long preamble will be The Meg’s bite-sized appetisers before his final big meal at the “world’s most popular beach” (no not Bondi, its a resort in South China). Naturally the annoying super-rich moneybags financier of the research mission (Rainn Wilson) disappears down its gullet. Apparently, just like us, Chinese investors don’t like nerdy slimy tech billionaires either. M from Aug 16 at local cinemas Palace Central, Broadway, Burwood, Rhodes and Auburn. ★★ 1/2
The Darkest Minds
After Gillead, I thought I’d never find a stupider and less plausible future dystopia than the one in The Handmaid’s Tale. Well, the one Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s The Darkest Mind, based on a series of YA novels beats it by several zombie apocalypses. A mysterious virus has wiped out 90 percent of the kids and teens – the only survivors being those who have superhuman “special powers.” Naturally the adults lock up all the kids in gulags – for that’s what you do with people smarter and better than you – you get them shining boots in vast assembly line factories while being subject to loud hollering and abuse by sadistic adults. Those nasty baby boomers, is there no end to their self-interest!
After a little rainbow posse led by Amanda Stenberg (Rue from The Hunger Games, and her presence only reminds us of a far more imaginatively-drawn dystopia) escape to various implausible adventures in a ruined, depopulated countryside, there is one half-way sensible line. “No children, no economy’” explains a survivor, and never a truer word has been spoken. Take note, you no-population-growth doomsayers. M from Aug 16 at local cinemas Palace Central, Broadway, Burwood, Rhodes and Auburn. ★ 1/2
Reviews – Russell Edwards