Funny French period comedy with excellent interplay from the two brilliant leads
27 June 2018
Period dramas are not usually my thing to be perfectly honest and when I read that this movie may in fact be 'swashbuckling' I began to get very worried and hitherto horrifying suppressed memories of Johnny Depp pretending to be Keith Richards in a pirate hat came rushing back to me. So, it came as a great relief and surprise to discover that this film is not really swashbuckling in the least and features no characters pretending to be Bill Wyman while sporting a Bicorne hat. What it actually is, is in fact a rather successfully funny period comedy. The story basically boils down to a French army captain who goes off to war in Austria but neglects to subsequently send letters to his bride-to-be. This leads to her sister surreptitiously writing fake letters pretending to be him with ever-increasing lies and exaggerations. The problems start when this man returns as a vagabond after having deserted his regiment, leading to him adopting the fake heroic persona created for him by the sister, only increasing the tension between them as a consequence.

This one works in a large part on account of the acting performances from the two leads Jean Dujardin and Mélanie Laurent, who are both major French movie stars. Both of them are quite excellent and funny in their roles, with terrific chemistry. The script is definitely amusing and channels the early 19th century by way of 2018, where at one-point Laurent complains about a sexist comment with the line 'it isn't the Dark Ages, this is 1812!'. So, there is much great verbal interplay between the two leads but pleasingly, the film is not afraid to throw in the odd visual gag too, such as where Dujardin hilariously spits into a baby's carriage. Towards the end, there is an injection of morose realism with a well-acted dinner scene, where Dujardin for once details the true nature of his war experiences. But it has to be said, for the vast majority of the time, this one is very much for laughs. The beautiful period detail and costuming only adds a nice dose of colour and production value to proceedings too. But, the most important factor is that this is a very successfully engaging and funny bit of French comedy.
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