Published Nov 23, 2012Though France is known for pushing the boundaries of cinema, both in form and content, creating devastating dramas and an abundance of challenging, thought-provoking art films, they've never really managed to have much success with straightforward comedy. Yes, there are some hilarious social critiques from Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Ozon and, debatably, Luis Bunuel (despite his Spanish birthright), but they're more academic and vanguard than the duller, strictly comic attempts, like The Dinner Game or The Closet.
Granny's Funeral is no exception to this rule, trying to make comedy out of the standard cliché of the male mid-life crisis with a manic and ungraceful broadness that is more embarrassing than amusing.
It's flawed from inception, pivoting on broad tropes of regret and annihilation anxiety with married pharmacist Armand (Denis Podalydés) porking his dentist Alix (Valérie Lemercier) and practicing magic—his long dormant youthful aspiration—when he learns of the death of his Grandmother. Having a box of knives on his head when he receives the news, this bland, borderline unwatchable, comedy uses the trajectory of confinement—a coffin-like metaphor for the imposing awareness of mortality—to (attempt to) heighten the comic element. Armand is routinely relegated to closet spaces and crevices to have texting bouts with his strong-willed mistress.
Also consistent throughout Granny's Funeral is the use of modern technology as alienating, distancing device, with emotional confrontations and conversations regularly being interrupted by cell phone rings and tonally inappropriate text notifications. It proves a distraction throughout, keeping Armand from answering his self-imposed question of want and desire and from realizing his preoccupation with youthful larks and new vagina has more to do with his fear of dying than with passion.
But since Armand is a bit of a selfish, idiot dipshit, it's difficult to care what he does with his life in any capacity. Even the inevitable dream sequences—complete with tired red balloon symbology—prove annoying, since our protagonist's psychology is so painfully rudimentary and vile.
Somewhere out there is an audience for this sort of shallow crap. But most of those people are probably too busy dressing up for insipid cocktail functions and impressing their neighbours with shiny new toys to be bothered with a forgettable French comedy.
Granny's Funeral screens on Friday, November 23rd at 9pm at the Royal. (Wild Bunch)