2008 FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL FEATURE! Interviewing for a job is probably one of the most stressful and unpleasant things anyone will have to do. Now imagine that your potential employer has decided that instead of making the difficult decision himself, it is now up to you and your rival for the position to decide amongst yourselves which one of you will get the job. This is exactly the position François Mangin finds himself in Reynald Bertrand’s shot on video French farce, “La Crème.”
This turn of events is particularly stressful for François as he been out of work for quite sometime, despite having a young son and a wife who dreams of owning a dress shop. The thing is, his rival has been out of work even longer and is on the verge of becoming a deadbeat dad after failing to pay his ex-wife child support, yet again. So after discussing their situation rationally, they decided to take a couple of days and reflect on what the best course of action would be, setting up audience expectations for a slapstick French version of “The Promotion.”
However, director Bertrand manages take things into all together more bizarre territory with the introduction of a little magic realism when François receives a jar of face cream for Christmas. Every time François puts on some of the cream, everyone around him starts acting a little strange. In fact, they start treating François very well, showering him with compliments and acquiescing to his every suggestion. It takes a while for François to figure out what is going on, but once he does he is all too happy to capitalize on it: they think that he is famous. But they aren’t merely mistaking him for another famous person; instead, the cream actually makes people think that plain old François is famous.
Being that this is a farce in the true sense of the word, things manage to get more and more convoluted until the possibility of a happy ending almost seems impossible. And yet, because it is a farce, it does end happily ever after, as implausibly as it may seem. The fact that this happy ending relies on rape being played for humor is a little troubling in these politically correct times, but I guess they see things a little differently in France.
Bertrand’s decision to shoot the film on video, and almost entirely hand held adds a refreshing element to the madcap proceedings and allows it to veer into the realm of satire. Questions of society’s obsession with fame and the famous are raised right away, although few answers are given. Performances are solid and the growing friendship between the two rivals is actually quite believable, even if the scenario is patently over the top.
While the film doesn’t exactly mine new ground comedy wise, the simplicity with which the story is told still manages to make it stand out.