Films starring Daniel Auteuil are like the old adage about London buses, you wait ages for one and then two come along at once. This week sees the release of Olivier Baroux’s crowd pleasing comedy Entre Amis with Auteuil playing Richard, a successful businessman in his early sixties who invites his two best friends and their partners along for a cruise around the Mediterranean. It’s definitely one for an older generation of filmgoers who will appreciate the musings on childhood friendships and growing old and the way the actors play off each other with the ease of seasoned old hands. The predictable jokes and running gags raise a titter if not a full blown guffaw while Auteuil presides over the action with his usual impeccable timing.
Richard, Gilles (Gérard Jugnot) and Philippe (François Berléand) have been friends for nearly fifty years and the cruise to Corsica starts pleasantly enough. Gilles is married to the easygoing Carole (Isabelle Gélinas), Philippe brings along his partner of the last 12 years Astrid (Zabou Breitman) while Richard uses the cruise to introduce his new girlfriend Daphnée (Mélanie Doutey) to the group for the first time. Carole warms immediately to Daphnée, but Astrid is hostile and unpleasant. The six set off accompanied by their Corsican skipper Battistou (Jean-Philippe Ricci) for a few days of laughs, revelations and surprises. But soon the atmosphere aboard the boat and the weather turn stormy and Entre Amis morphs into |The Perfect Storm. The group are left on their own to deal with an increasingly dangerous situation and old grudges and jealousies soon come to the surface. And the burning question is whether their friendship can navigate these choppy waters?
Baroux is sticking to well-chartered territory with comedy. After a string of hit films between 2009-2011, his last two features have had less success. His comedy is often anarchic, tipping over into the absurd and there are shades of this in Entre Amis with the spectacle of a bunch sixty-year-olds coping with a rapidly deteriorating situation of their own making. But he doesn’t go far enough. When the group finally cracks, it’s to down to Auteuil and him alone to have a truly, manic, crazy moment. The other male characters never really emerge fully-rounded and seem simple devices to give the plot some emotional depth. The women fare no better. Breitman does her best as the bitter, angry, high-achieving Astrid, but the character lacks humour and is irritating and unbearable. And the running gag with Douty as the accident-prone Daphnée soon runs out of steam. No prizes for guessing for how the film ends with its message of tolerance and understanding. Auteuil was last on cinema screens in 2013 in Philippe Claudel’s Avant l’Hiver opposite Kristen Scott Thomas. Next week sees the release of Richard Berry’s comedyNos Femmes with Auteuil, Berry and Thierry L’Hermitte. Let’s hope this film has been worth the two year wait.