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COCKLES & MUSCLES

Director: OLIVIER DUCASTEL, & JACQUES MARTINEA

FRANCE • 2005 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 93 MIN


AFTER THE THOUGHTFUL AND PROVOCATIVE DRÔLE DE FELIX (2000) AND MA VIE (2002), FRENCH FILM-MAKERS OLIVIER DUCASTEL AND JACQUES MARTINEAU SHIFT INTO A MUCH MORE MAINSTREAM STYLE WITH THIS HUGELY CROWD-PLEASING ROMP, WHICH BRILLIANTLY COMBINES TWO FRENCH MOVIE TRADITIONS—THE HOLIDAY DRAMA AND THE ROMANTIC FARCE.
Beatrix and Marc (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi and Gilbert Melki) head off to the Riviera for the summer as usual with their quiet teen son Charly (Romain Torres) and independent-minded daughter Laura (Sabrina Seyvecou), who immediately departs for Portugal with her biker boyfriend. Beatrix and Marc both wonder about Charly’s sexuality, especially when his summer friend Martin (Edouard Collin) arrives and the two take off for long walks along the coast. But Charly’s not the issue here; actually, everyone else is up to something.
The film is so jammed with delightful little touches that it keeps a broad smile on our face from start to finish, due to the clever film-making, witty script, insightful observations and, mostly, a shimmering performance from Bruni-Tedeschi. She’s simply perfect as the lively wife and mother with a wandering mind, and she’s well-matched by the vivacious Melki. Running gags abound here, as do set-pieces that are both hilariously unhinged and jaggedly moving. Ducastel and Martineau have made a very low-budget film that looks like an A-list production, and while distracting us with the on-screen antics they’re actually saying something very important about family expectations and real friendship.—Rich Cline.

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