Francois Cluzet, Francois-Xavier Demaison, Arthur Dupont
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…by-the-numbers French comedy.
As globalisation and urbanisation march on, there is an inexorable weakening of the rural sector. Such weighty sociological considerations are, of course, a merely sketched-in backdrop to this slightly by-the-numbers French comedy.
Not that it is without charm. How could any film starring François Cluzet be accused of that? Cluzet (who was so brilliant in The Intouchales opposite Omar Sy), is one of France’s favourite actors and it is easy to see why. He has Gallic charm to spare and that rare ability to make each character he inhabits believable and likable.
Here, he plays village mayor Georges Balbuzard. He is a farmer and a man of the people, but the village has slightly turned against him as they blame him for recently losing a big commercial contract. Now in the middle of a crisis related to the falling price of milk and beef, the locals are out in their tractors observing the time-honoured French tradition of flexing their agricultural muscles and holding the state to ransom.
Into this tense atmosphere drops the inciting incident in the form of famous international photographer Newman (based on eccentric arthouse snapper Stanley Tunick). Newman (the reliable but here miscast Toby Jones) wants to stage one of his famous photos where a lot of naked people are piled up in a landscape, and the field he insists on having happens to be the subject of long-running dispute. Will the shy and/or non-plussed villagers get their kit off to save the village’s finances? Will the dispute over the field be amicably resolved? Can we get invested in such contrivances?
The problem with Philippe Le Guay’s (The Women on the 6th Floor) amiable effort is that it feels like it was designed on paper (hey, let’s cross Calendar Girls with Manon Des Sources). It is fair to point out that there are good elements; the bit part players are all reliably good, and relative newcomer Julie Ann Roth looks like she could be the next Cecile de France. That said, the film is coasting a bit. Perhaps there is more to cooking up a perfect country stew than just having good ingredients.