Alex Lutz, in the director’s chair for the first time with Le Talent de Mes Amis, is following a well-trodden path of small-screen comic actors who are looking to translate success on TV into the cinema. Kev Adams, Max Boublil and perhaps most famously Omar Sy and Jean Dujardin all cut their teeth either in stand-up comedy or in comic TV series – Adams (Soda), Max Boublil (one-man show), Omar Sy (SAV), Dujardin (Un Gars, Une Fille). Lutz and fellow actor Bruno Sanchez are Catherine and Liliane in a prime time slot on cable TV channel Canal Plus and Sanchez is again at Lutz’s side in Le Talent … which starts off as a zany, off-the-wall comedy only to nosedive vertiginously into a bland, embarrassingly unfunny buddy movie. And there are no shortages of these male bonding films around. Still in cinema’s and doing well at the box-office is Olivier Baroux’s Entre Amis, the story of three life-long friends who spend a disastrous weekend on a cruise together. Unfortunately Lutz’s comedy has none of the appeal of Baroux’s superb cast of seasoned comic actors. He relies on the short-lived charm of his main character, Alexandre Ludon, (Lutz) and his friendship with the socially inept Jeff Cortes (Sanchez) to carry the audience through nearly two hours of hit and miss visual gags.
Alex and Jeff work together and have been friends since high-school. In their mid-thirties they have reached a point in life where routine has replaced excitement and ambition. This changes when their employer hires Thibaut (Tom Dingler), a childhood friend of Alexander’s and now a specialist in personal development, to give a motivational speech to the workforce. As children, Alex and Thibaut made a promise to make a success of their lives at whatever cost. Thibaut seems to have kept his side of the bargain forcing Alex to rethink his career path and the quality of his personal relationships, above all with Jeff.
Why is it that when French men are going through an existential crisis they reach for their best buddies while French women pack a bag and head off into the unknown (Emmanuelle Bercot’s On My Way,
Solveig Anspach’s Lulu Femme Nue,
Un Gars Une fille)
preferring solitude to self-pity? It’s clear from the outset that Alex and Jeff have shunned the responsibilites of adult life. Both rely on their wives ( Audrey Lamy, Anne Marivin) to take care of day-to-day concerns while they spend the day prank calling colleagues, drinking and playing silly games. It’s comedy at its lowest level and Lutz could pull it off if this was used as a springboard towards something more mature. But sadly, no. Alex’s character veers off into a full blown mid-life crisis. Jeff becomes angry and sad while Thibaut is found to be a liar and shameless self-publicist. As an analysis of male friendships it also offers nothing new – woman base relationships on communication while men like to mess around and get drunk. While it tries to address some interesting questions such as whether success equals happiness or the importance of chasing your dreams, the answer seems to lie in an outright refusal to grow up. A strange cameo by veteran actress Jeanne Moreau does nothing to improve the film’s appeal.
French directors have recently produced a number of crowd pleasing comedies most notably Serial (bad) weddings
and La Famille Bellier
, Le Talent de Mes Amis
is unlikely to draw the same attention.