Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Under the Rainbow (orig. Au bout du Conte) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be PG)* aggregate (critics 3.5/5 audience 3.0/5)  Fr. Dennis (3/4 Stars)  

IMDb listing
Alociné.fr listing

Under the Rainbow (orig. Au bout du Conte) [2013] [IMDb] []* (directed and cowritten by Agnès Jaoui [IMDb] []* along with Jean-Pierre Bacri [IMDb] []*) is a French romantic comedy of sorts (the French title translates roughly "After the fairy tale...") that played recently at the 49th Chicago International Film Festival.

The story centers around Laura (played by Agathe Bonitzer [IMDb] []*) a 24-year-old parisienne with divorced parents.  Her proper, upper-class "Legion de Honneur" father had dumped her mother for a seemingly younger, "far better looking wife."  His unsmiling second wife (unsmiling probably because she can't ...), Laura's "evil step mother," keeps herself young by undergoing a seemingly endless (though remarkably successful) line of cosmetic surgeries.  When it's revealed somewhere near the end of the film that she's "62" (when honestly NO ONE would think she could possibly be more than in her late 30s) one "understands."  In contrast, Laura's mother, a failed if sympathetic actress (played by Agnès Jaoui [IMDb] []*) lives in a shack "at the edge of town" ("at the edge of the forest...") and runs a children's after-school drama class, trying to get her 10 year old "princes" to "stay on script" and kiss the 10 year old "princesses" even as they whine that they'd really prefer to be frogs again (and the "princesses" agree ;-).

Anyway, Laura wonders if there's a prince still out there for her.  When at a party she spots a good-looking young man named Sandro (played by played by Anthur Dupont [IMDb] []*) dressed all in blue with somewhat unkempt but a full head of hair, under a GIANT STATUE OF AN ANGEL ABOVE HIM and seemingly EVEN POINTING AT HIM, she takes it for "a sign" ;-).  'Cept it turns out that he's kinda quiet, kinda clumsy, stutters (he's actually a brooding composer of sorts) and ... after tripping going down the stairs when leaving the party, it's he who leaves his own shoe at the ball.

But he seems to be "the one" at least for a while, until... one day, dressed smartly in a nice red coat and a nice red hat, on her way to her mother's house (at the edge of town/edge of the forest) ... Laura runs into a somewhat older man, all dressed in black and driving a big black sports-car.  He first offers to give her a lift and when she politely refuses he gives her directions.  The man's name, turns out to be Maxime Wolff (played by Benjamin Biolay [IMDb] []*) who Laura's mother tells her is a new neighbor down the street (Maxime of course meaning "very large", Wolff ... being, well, you get the picture ... ;-)

Good ole Maxime Wolff ends up being a music critic.  So Laura and Sandro run into him a few more times, and given that Sandro's kinda a klutz and Maxime is, if nothing else, really really confident ... well ...

Much still ensues ... and look, I'm not kidding ;-).   There are all kinds of subplots running through this story that are almost impossible to include in a coherent review of the film ;-)

Added up, it all makes for a very imaginative (and fun) story ... 'CEPT ... There's a part of the story that I found both needless and needlessly irritating.  It concerns one of the many "subplots" of the story:

One of the little girls who also goes to Laura's mother's after-school drama program becomes very religious.  Why?  Well her parents just got separated (ALL THE ADULTS IN THE FILM ARE DIVORCED OR SEPARATED) and this little girl ON HER OWN STARTS READING BIBLE STORIES and TELLS HER PARENTS THAT SHE WANTS TO RECEIVE FIRST COMMUNION.  Her atheist and divorcing parents don't know what to do.  Her father even goes into a tirade telling his future ex-wife: "I refuse to have to sit through a sermon of some priest spouting his personal morality on me."  Eventually, they go talk to the girl's teacher at school who tells them "it could just be a phase."  And they're "relieved" when sometime near the end of the film, the girl DOES change her mind and "now wants a pony."  The mother says, relieved: "See, she's just 'seeking' ..."

I found this EXTENDED SUBPLOT in the film REALLY UNNERVING.  Interestingly enough though, the French Catholic reviewer of the film (in the publication La Croix*) did not even mention the extended sequence in his review, instead focusing on the film's general blasé thematics reminding viewers that "life isn't a fairytale."  So if French people of faith are not going to be too offended by this (to me seemingly unnecessary) part of the film I'm not going to be overly offended as well.  Still, I found this particular subplot in the film REALLY, REALLY IRRITATING and as far as I could see utterly unnecessary.

Putting that aspect of the film aside, however, I did find the film _very creative_ and very _funny_.

* I've found that one can get decent enough (sense) translations of non-English webpages by viewing them in Google's Chrome browser. 

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