Oh, those French and their wacky comedies. Sometimes they translate well to other markets – AMÉLIE and DELICATESSEN (both written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet) are great examples – and sometimes they don’t. BYE BYE MORONS, which received 12 nominations at this year’s César Awards and took home six trophies, falls into the latter group. I’m sure the French were rolling in the aisles when they saw this film but for us English speakers, it’s just a dud with some rather problematic plot developments and scenes that only the French would find endearing.
Suze Trappet (Virginie Efira, BENEDETTA; SINK OR SWIM; COOKIE) is a 40-something year old hairdresser whose life is upended when she finds out that years of inhaling hairspray has given her a terminal autoimmune disease. Faced with her mortality, she decides to find the son she gave up for adoption when she was 15 years old. Her journey takes her to a government department where a bureaucrat is far less than helpful in finding her son’s birth record. At the same time and in the next office, middle-aged computer systems engineer Jean-Baptiste Cuchas (Albert Dupontel, AU REVOIR LÀ-HAUT) has just been informed by his boss that he’s been shunted aside in favour of younger blood. When he tries to kill himself with a high-powered rifle he purchased online, his plan goes horribly awry and he ends up shooting the bureaucrat that Suze is dealing with. In the ensuing chaos, Suze makes a deal with JB that she will vouch for him if he can find her son. They quickly join forces with blind archivist Serge Blin (Nicolas Marié) who has his own axe to grind with the authorities. Together the trio searches for Suze’s son all while staying one step ahead of JB’s boss and his hapless cronies.
BYE BYE MORONS is an homage of sorts to the 1985 film BRAZIL, which also satirizes bureaucracy and hyper-surveillance. Dupontel, who also wrote and directed the film, even gives BRAZIL writer and director (and Monty Python alumnus) Terry Gilliam a cameo here, and dedicates the film to another Python alumnus, Terry Jones, who passed away last year. Unfortunately, that’s about where the similarity between the two films ends as Suze, JB and Serge careen across suburban Paris trying to track down her son. When they finally do, they engage in some heavy-duty stalking of both him and his love interest, a matter that neither young person seems to bothered about at all. In France, all’s fair when it comes to love apparently.
That’s not the worst part of this film though. With a short runtime of 88 minutes, BYE BYE MORONS feels about an hour longer than that. The pacing is terribly slow with plot twists and turns that overstay their welcome. The film’s running gag about people in authority mispronouncing Suze’s and JB’s surnames wears very thin after the first three gaffes (which take place in the film’s first two minutes).
BYE BYE MORONS opens in Hong Kong’s cinemas on Thursday (November 4th). Skip it unless you’re French. Maybe rent BRAZIL instead.
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