DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SITCOM (director/writer: François Ozon; cinematographer: Yorick Le Saux; editor: Dominique Petrot; music: Eric Neveux; cast: Evelyne Dandry (Helene), Francois Marthouret (Jean), Marina de Van (Sophie), Lucia Sanchez (Maria), Adrien de Van (Nicolas), Stephane Rideau (David), Julien-Emmanuel Eyoum Deido (Abdu), Jean Douchet (Shrink); Runtime: 85; New Yorker Films; 1998-Fr)

 
"An over-the-top sitcom spoof on a bourgeois family."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An over-the-top sitcom spoof on a bourgeois family.

The film opens as the father of a typical suburban Parisian family, Jean, comes home to the house he was brought up in and lived in for the last 20 years of marriage to his bossy wife Helene and his family of teenager son Nicolas and teenager daughter Sophie (played by real-life brother/sister Marina de Van and Adrien de Van). As the father enters the Spanish maid Maria and her African husband Abdu sing Happy Birthday to him, and then the film goes dark as we hear him shoot them and his entire family. The caption then flashes back to several months earlier.

At this time the new maid, Maria, arrives and is shown around the house by Helene. Later Sophie's hot boyfriend comes over for dinner and is in her room contemplating a quickie before the roast is served, but is interrupted when her father comes home with a present of a caged white rat for a family pet.

Maria is dressed-up in a gown and her gym teacher husband Abdu comes in a tuxedo, as they are invited by her new employees for dinner. At the family dinner Nicolas announces that he's a homosexual, as his mother reacts badly while the father says it might just be a passing adolescent phase. Under the mother's request Abdu goes up to Nicolas' room to talk with him, but instead the two get it on together.

Sophie will attempt suicide by jumping out from the second floor of the house, and will become wheelchair-bound as a paraplegic. Her relationship with David will become an S&M one. Nicolas will quit high school and have homosexual orgies in his bedroom, and he will become less of a scholastic nerd and start wearing fancier clothes. There will also be an incest scene between mother and son, a photo taken during a sex act between the maid and David will be used for blackmail, talk about being a lesbian will surprisingly come from the maid, an attempt by the mother to straighten her family problems out by seeing a shrink, and everyone in the family will seem like a basket case. It's all explained away by the silly notion that the rat caused all the bad vibes.

The black comedy is rather tedious. François Ozon bites off more than he can handle. The film's success comes in minor moments, as showing how unflappable and erudite the seemingly balanced father is during all the social upheavals--even though he's as mad as a hatter. 

REVIEWED ON 12/30/2001     GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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