So I have a new filmmaker I love, Francis Veber, the French maker of comedies The Valet, The Closet, La Cage Aux Folles (1978 original and the 1996 US remake The Birdcage), The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe, and The Dinner Game. I’ve seen the first three…now I want to see the other two.
The Closet is about a mild-mannered executive who learns he’s about to be downsized at about the same time he is mistaken for being gay. This not only saves his job (because the company is afraid of seeming to discriminate against a gay employee) but starts him on a path to self-actualization, as he has to keep up the pretense to keep his job.
Pretty much everyone has seen The Birdcage, better known for its French version, La Cage Aux Folles. Veber wrote the screenplay in the 70s, then it was made into the French version, then the 1996 US version was made based on his screenplay. I can’t remember if the houseboy in the French original declares that someone is “intimidated by his Guatamalaness” but I’ll have to revisit it.
The Dinner Game was recently remade in America into Dinner for Schmucks, and received terrible reviews. (Since La Cage transposed only sort-of well to The Birdcage, I’m not surprised. The American version of La Cage seemed to be desperately broad and a little ugly, compared with the French confection.) I’m reserving judgment until I see both The Dinner Game and Dinner for Schmucks.
The Valet, which I like best so far, features a business mogul who keeps lying to his supermodel mistress, claiming he’ll leave his wife one day. The mistress is actually in love with him, poor kid. During a quarrel they’re caught by a paparazzo in a candid photo on the street. The exec’s even more powerful billionaire wife is not amused. To save the exec’s position with his wife, his wonderfully creepy yet sexy attorney suggests that the random guy caught walking by in the paparazzo’s photo should be recruited to pretend to be with the supermodel.
The story follows the fraudulent relationship staged between the random guy, who is a parking valet, and the supermodel. The exec’s billionaire wife meddles. The valet’s romance with a bookshop owner tanks…first boringly, then spectacularly when the bookshop owner catches him lunching with the supermodel. A fine cast of supporting characters helps to screw things up.
All the characters are charmingly underplayed. Certain actors appear in several of Veber’s films, evidently part of an ensemble he likes to work with.
What I don’t know and would love to know is, how come so many heroes of these movies are named François Pignon? Is this one of those commedia-like character naming conventions I don’t know about? Or peculiar to Veber?
When I find good farce, I like to wallow in it! What other good stuff am I missing?