Directed by: Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Written by: Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
Produced by: Nicolas duval adassovsky, Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun
Starring: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jean-Paul Rouve, Eye Haidara, Benjamin Lavernhe, Gilles Lellouche, Vincent Macaigne and Alban Ivanov.
What would you do if you were minutes away from serving main course to a wedding party of 200 guests and the food was ruined? While this would have to be any event planner’s worst nightmare, this is merely one of the catastrophes looming over the ‘sober, elegant, chic’ occasion that Pierre (Benjamin Lavernhe), the self-obsessed groom, has ordered for his special day.
C’est La Vie is a behind the scenes look at 24 hours in the life of wily, irascible wedding planner, Max Angeli (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and his unruly, uncooperative and inattentive staff as they attempt to orchestrate a 21st century wedding extravaganza in a 16th century château, complete with dodgy wiring.
If Max is to survive this reception with his reputation and his business intact, he will need to draw on 30 years of his of experience in the trade, but he has his own troubles too. His lover has insisted that he leave his wife and until she sees some action Josiane (Suzanne Clement) is brazenly pursuing one of the waiters. At the same time, Max is feeling so jaded that he is secretly negotiating the sale of his business. Or he would be, if only he could master the predictive text function on his phone. Unwittingly, Max has invited his buyer to, ‘come and lick me up’.
Much of the humour in this ensemble comedy derives from language wielded with the precision of a chef’s knife fileting the hapless creatures laid out on the cutting board; especially, the exquisitely barbed insults flying between the staff from the various departments—catering, music, photography, even lighting and special effects—as they each seem to vie to undermine the other. Filmed at the Château de Courances, the setting is breathtaking, while the subtle cadences of Avishai Cohen’s musical score add layers of texture to the slow burn of the script.
Contrary to the expectations set up by its publicity, this film does not follow the well-established Hollywood tradition where a series of disasters, each more cringe-making and improbable than the last, ramp up to a great, big, rousing finale. While I heard several chuckles and a few belly laughs from the small audience during the pre-screening, the experience was more a smile in the dark than a roll about in the aisles kind of thing. Rather, this film plays with verisimilitude, relying on artful misdirection to produce something that is so deliciously absurd and quirky that it confounds expectation.
In a scene that does break with the sense of realism, two of the hopelessly distracted staff manage to lose the groom. Quite literally. And nobody, not even his bride, seems to mind. It is in this moment, when chaos threatens to ruin everything, the staff show that they have the single qualification that counts in their line of work. They know how to party. Under any circumstances.
As the bemused international crew observes, ‘The French, they’re really something else.’ And this comedy is quintessentially French, right down to its beautifully crafted, easy to read, subtitles.
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