Co-directors/co-writers Olivier Ducastel’s and Jacques Martineau’s seaside comedy of family matters is a charming, if frustrating, entertainment that can’t decide if it’s a musical or a play. With a Mozart opera bedroom plot (comings and goings at all hours with plenty of literal and sexual mistaken identities) and an idée fixe of shower-stall sexual relief (wet dreams taken to the nth degree) providing the required informed silliness, this production stumbles through the “drama,” but positively radiates when it bursts into song. Sadly, the two musical offerings—replete with choreography that most certainly moves gaily forward—can’t lift the script higher than middle-C. More’s the pity as the excellent cast seem more than up to the task of singin’ and dancin’ their way out of their angst and into our hearts.
The first glimmer of greatness is a hilarious pas de deux where the vacationing married couple Béatrix (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) and Marc (Gilbert Melki) romp up and down the staircase of their inherited summer castle to the amusing looks (and percussive interjections) of their rebellious son Charly (the long-locked Romain Torres) and his uncloseted best friend Martin (Edouard Collin).
Turns out that Mother-Knows-Best has concluded that Charly’s ready to get in touch with Martin’s masculine side so, unhampered by any facts, shares her conclusion with Dad. Next, we’re deluged with a montage of “Is he? Isn’t he?” circumstantial evidence: the boys take long walks, swim together in their boxers, and, tellingly, dare-each-other-to-jerk-off roulette (cross-reference below). Meanwhile, Father Marc cowers in his workshop getting his hands dirty before inadvertently being presented with an eyeful of Martin’s soapy butt, which captivates the happily married man far more than it should. Not to be outdone, Béatrix has a lover, Mathieu (played with naked panache by Jacques Bonnaffé) and the horny pair gets it on almost every time her vibrating cell phone, er, rings.
Then, before you can say “Who’s the queerest of them all?” the men take things into their own hands and hop along to the paradise island’s major cruise zone. Here they learn more about themselves and each other than could be elicited from three years of psychotherapy—particularly from local plumber Didier (Jean-Marc Barr), who very nearly fixes everyone’s pipes.
Soon, after tempers have flared, handcuffs removed, and the various truths have been blurted out, everyone takes a metaphorical cold shower (except Charly who never does get laid) and decides to live happily ever after.
But instead of a beautiful sunset adieu (despite the lush location, cinematographers Antoine Héberlé and Matthieu Poirot-Delpech weren’t permitted much in the way of establishing shots—did we really need to have the train shtick twice?—the screen becomes the set for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In as we learn who’s doing whom a year later.
Finally, the ensemble bands together and delivers choreographer Sylvie Giron’s zesty finale that would be a triumph on Broadway, but, more importantly, convincingly exudes the joy and pizzazz that up until now had been in too short supply. Even the shellfish—of either sex—were boogying! JWR