27 February 2011 | GLanoue
I think you have to go pretty far back in time to get Hollywood versions of this type of comedy, like the banter in Girl Friday. This comedy in the French style revolves around class issues, albeit subtle ones in this case. Here, an old battle-scared socialist doctor marries, unbeknown to his own bourgeoisified children, a beautiful but blowsy Moldovan refugee to help her get her papers. He becomes besotted, and she exploits him just a bit too much for his children's taste and settled values. Everything revolves around the tension this creates in the children's lives, but through the tension and even vicious infighting, there are a lot of great lines and insightful psychology. Tatiana's déclassé manners and image at first even loosens up the uptight children, but when daddy disinherits them to provide for his spring bride's future, things fall apart. The ending (which I won't reveal) is a bit weak, but the rest, especially the dialogue and the sparkling acting by everyone involved are just wonderful. Of course, French films and their humour often revolve around this style of acting, where the actor embodies a Commedia dell'arte-style stereotype, except here it's a class and not a gender or sexual identity (this is France, not Italy). That's the hard part to translate to American audiences, first, literally in the subtitles and also in the larger sense, when Americans try to remake these French classics. How can one bring class tensions into the picture and make them meaningful to American audiences without falling into the parody of Trading Places (remember, Dan Ackroyd is a Yalie because he has a "posh" accent, and Eddie Murphy is street because, well, because he's Eddie Murphy) ? That's the part that often takes these movies beyond the comedic and into bittersweet truths. This is a great movie and definitely worth finding it, though I can't vouch for how it's subtitled (saw it in French).