The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (17)
| Top Critics (1)
| Fresh (9)
| Rotten (8)
Kristen Scott Thomas wanders back from time to time to taunt us with what could have been.
Veering between relationship intrigues and farce, this is not especially moving or particularly funny and yet it's very well acted and quirkily genial.
Though beautifully filmed and impeccably acted, the story is just too French, domestic and dull to light the fires of conflict.
The problem is that it's impossible to care about the dull man at the centre when he's surrounded my much more colourfully eccentric characters.
An uneven film with occasional moments of genius.
It's like a Haneke plot turned into a comforting boulevard play, but it's subtly observed and extremely well acted ...
Bonitzer is a lithe, literate writer who has penned screenplays for greats such as Jacques Rivette and André Téchiné but it seems he doesn't save his best ideas for himself.
As though aliens picked up a random Francophone VOD channel and regurgitated their own Scary Movie version of the worst bits back at humankind.
The performances are tart and tannic, ensuring the film goes out with a graceful dying fall.
At once contrived and jerry-constructed.
The movie dawdles on, tying its loose ends into a limp knot, but when passive-aggressive text messages are the closest you get to dramatic friction, it's hard not to feel as though there's something missing.
Forget Hortense, we're still looking for the plot.
Damien (Bacri) lectures on Asian culture to French business types looking to gain an advantage in cracking that burgeoning market. His partner, Iva (Thomas), is a theater director in the midst of conducting an affair with her latest production's leading man. When Iva asks Damien to speak to his father (Rich), a judge, about repealing an expulsion order for a friend of her brother, Damien agrees reluctantly. Estranged from his father, fulfilling Iva's request becomes increasingly difficult for Damien, who in the process befriends Aurore (Carre), a young woman who works in a restaurant next door to a bookshop he frequents.
The basic set-up of Bonitzer's film is reminiscent of the type of scenario Larry David might spin for an episode of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'. Stretched out to 100 minutes, however, this simple idea quickly becomes a test of patience, particularly given the poor, dated comedy on show. Bonitzer appears completely out of touch with modern society, mining jokes from topics like homosexuality and immigration as if he were a staff writer on a seventies British sitcom. A scene where Damien wakes up after a night of heavy (or, rather, heavy by French standards) drinking with a young gay Japanese waiter in his bed scales new heights of misjudgement.
Had he gone for a straight drama, instead of opting for cheap laughs, Bonitzer could have given us an intriguing film. Bacri is great as the put-upon Damien, as is Thomas, albeit short-changed in her role. The female characters in this film are all woefully written (and all seem to suffer from a nicotine addiction). Iva is the stereotypical cheating wife while Aurore is little more than a young damsel in distress, inexplicably waiting for an aging, out of shape knight like Damien to save her. Despite resembling an alcoholic butcher, Damien is apparently irresistible to young women, and indeed young men.
Perhaps the title 'Oh Grandad! The Movie' would be better fitting for the out of touch Bonitzer's latest?
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