Romantic comedy Prêt à Tout is full of good ideas and potential comic riches that rely too heavily on the charm of leading man Max Boublil, a stand-up comedian who has found popularity among France’s YouTuber generation. He is most famous to date for his You Tube hit J’aime les moches (I love ugly girls) which has had nearly 25 million hits. Nicolas Cuche’s film comes across as an attempt to ride Boublil’s current wave of popularity and as a result feels rushed and lacking in depth.
Boublil is Max, a law student who falls in love with Alice (Aissa Maiga), when they are at college together. Alice is a politically active, single mother who rejects Max for his hedonistic lifestyle . After being dumped by the father of her baby, Alice is forced to leave college and find a job. Fast forward eight years, Max and his two friends are living the high life as dotcom millionaires. But Max can’t forget Alice and when he sees her on television leading a campaign to save the factory where she works, he decides to use his money to stop the business from closing down. Unable to reveal he is now the new boss. Max takes a job on the assembly line hoping that the changes he brings about at work will force Alice to rethink her opinion of him. His ruse appears to be working work until the money runs out.
It’s a gamble to inject social commentary into a romantic-comedy and in Prêt à Tout the two sit awkwardly side-by-side. Strikes, unemployment and the grim reality of the ghetto-like housing estate where Alice lives, all make for a bleak background to a love story. Cuche needed to tread carefully to avoid the social context from overshadowing the relationship between Max and Alice and to keep the tone light and non-judgemental. He succeeds by staying short on detail and concentrating on moving the story forward. Unfortunately, this results in a lack of any emotional attachment to the characters.
Other supporting roles are sketchily drawn and exist only to set up situations for Boublil to display his comic talents. Patrick Timsit, a veteran comic actor with a string of successful roles under his belt including Francois Pignon in Francis Veber’s 2008 L’Emmerdeur (A Pain in the Ass), is woefully underused as the former factory boss. And there’s a feeling that a stronger cast of supporting characters would have taken the film in a different, meatier direction.
Boublil’s low-key performance as Max does not do justice to the humour or energy of his one-man show or his spoofs on You Tube. And he is completely outshone by the gorgeous Senegalese-born Maiga who brings a freshness and credibility to every scene. Audiences will remember her as Chantal in the Michael Haneke thriller Cache alongside Daniel Auteuil and Juliet Binoche.
There’s a history in modern cinema of stand-up comedians making the transition from stage to screen and France is no exception. Oscar winner Jean Dujardin did stand-up and last year’s most successful French film at the box-office, Les Profs, starred 22-year-old stand-up comedian Kev Adams. Adams is hugely popular with French youth and successfully took the audience from his one-man show and his TV series Ados with him to the big screen. It remains to be seen whether Boublil who is 12 years older than Adams can do the same. In French cinemas: 22/01/2014
DVD subtitled in English