(director/writer: Agnès Jaoui; screenwriter: Jean-Pierre Bacri; cinematographer: David Quesemand;; editor: François Gedigier; cast: Agnès Jaoui (Agathe Villanova), Pascale Arbillot (Florence), Jean-Pierre Bacri (Michel Ronsard), Jamel Debbouze (Karim), Guillaume de Tonquedec (Stéphane), Mimouna Hadji (Mimouna), Frédéric Pierrot (Antoine), Florence Loiret- Caille (Aurelie), Anne Werner (Séverine); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jean-Philippe Andraca /Christian Berard; IFC Films; 2008-France-in French with Englidh subtitles)
The genial comedy reaches for understated satirical moments.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A Gallic Woody Allen type of relationship comedy by director.Agnès Jaoui (“The Taste of Others“/”Look at Me”), who also stars and co-writes with her co-star real-life husband Jean-Pierre Bacri. The French dramedy tries for smart laughs at the comical situations that arise showing all the characters have big problems, and does well until the pace slows and we get to know more about the characters.

Bossy feminist book writer Agathe Villanova (Agnès Jaoui) leaves Paris to visit her unhappy fragile married sister Florence (Pascale Arbillot), in their south of France, Avignon, country childhood home, and see how she’s getting on since their mother died. Agathe is running for political office and agrees to allow reporter turned amateur film-maker Michel Ronsard (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and his protege buddy, the hotel receptionist clerk Karim (Jamel Debbouze), do a documentary on her. Karim’s separated Algerian immigrant mother Mimouna (Mimouna Hadji) is the long-time housekeeper for Florence and her needy husband Stéphane (Guillaume de Tonquedec). Karim resents the way Stéphane treats his easy-going mom with a lack of respect, that she boards in a rundown shack and that she’s paid so little that she must take other cleaning jobs to survive. The bored Florence is having an affair with the divorced Michel, and is seriously thinking of getting a divorce. Even the reliable Karim is tempted to cheat on his good-natured French wife Séverine (Anne Werner), with an alluring workplace white French colleague (Florence Loiret- Caille). Meanwhile the documentary is going poorly for a number of reasons, but mostly because of Michel being a fuck-up and causing Agathe to be stuck in the sticks without transportation so the candidate misses a city rally. Also damaging is that the shooting of the documentary takes up so much of Agathe’s time, so her accompanying boyfriend (Frédéric Pierrot) splits and ends the relationship.

The genial comedy reaches for understated satirical moments, as it fires away at racism, class differences, work conditions and the power battles between the sexes. It works best in its subtle way of examining how difficult it is for all parties to connect emotionally, when there are so many variables that make each person the way they are and therefore each will react differently to issues that arise. The seriocomedy would have worked better if the story would have flowed better from beginning to end, it left out a few unnecessary subplots that were basically time wasters and its political agenda was less forced.