Almost like a cinematic experiment, Guediguian’s offbeat social comedy is both intriguing and intensely frustrating. It’s about two screenwriters (Pielliller and Podalydes) who get together to write a social comedy, even though they haven’t a clue what they’re talking about. Their story, enacted on screen, is centred in a Marseilles garage, home to an entire family of needy people: Manager Lola (Ascaride) is a single mother being pursued by mechanic Gigi (Meylan). Lola’s brother Jean-Do (Darroussin) is having trouble in his marriage to Marthe (Bonnal), who in turn is drawn to the layabout Henri (Bonnel). Meanwhile, a company owner (Banderet) is refusing to pay his bill, which might force the garage to close, which would leave them all homeless as well.
The story moves uneasily as the writers try to guess what life must be like for the underclasses … even while they make an excellent point that the law is on the side of the rich. The sheer injustice of the system makes us care for these characters, even though they’re all stereotypes. And maybe this is Guediguian’s point! At least the performances are good. But the disjointed, contrived story continually alienates us, accompanied by strangely cheesy ’40s movie music. It simply doesn’t work, undermining the serious themes with awkward comedy and confusing layers of fiction. A very odd experiment indeed, and not a terribly successful one.