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A cheating husband. A cheating wife. A gorgeous Paris apartment. A nosy cleaning lady. An incompetent plumber. A pesky neighbor. A broken elevator. A family secret.
Do Not Disturb (Une Heure de Tranquilite), a new but utterly traditional French farce from director Patrice Leconte and playwright Florian Zeller, tosses in every element of the genre save for the kitchen sink — although there is a marble bathtub, as well as a set of broken pipes that (you guessed it) wind up causing a major flood.
Overwrought and riddled with cliches, this slick adaptation of Zeller’s hit stage play features a few good laughs, with perma-tanned Christian Clavier doing his best to channel the aggravation of a man who just wants to be left alone to listen to his favorite jazz record. Not quite on par with 2012’s What’s in a Name?, but superior to last year’s smash Serial (Bad) Weddings (which also starred Clavier, basically in the same role), this New Year’s Eve release already has scored more than 500,000 admissions in its opening week and should continue to rake in strong numbers at home. Euro territories also will take notice, while Disturb may be too broad for art house tastes.
Set during one long and chaotic day, the very stagy narrative follows 60-something dentist Michel Leproux (Clavier) as he heads home from the flea market with his greatest find yet: a rare album from fictional ’50s jazz clarinetist Niel Youart entitled “Me, Myself and I” (get it?). All Michel wants to do is have “an hour of peace” — as the French-language title states — to listen to it in the comfort of his own living room.
Bien evidemment, things do not go according to plan. His spouse, Nathalie (Carole Bouquet) — the Webster’s definition of “Depressive Parisian Housewife” — has something vital to tell him, as does his mistress (Valerie Bonneton). Meanwhile, a downstairs neighbor (Stephane De Groodt) has organized a party for the building and keeps bugging Michel about the plans. And let’s not forget the Spanish housekeeper (Rossy de Palma) who constantly barges in, as well as the immigrant worker (Arnaud Henriet) who’s doing a hatchet job on the plumbing system.
It’s easy to see where this is heading, and Clavier does a decent job playing a selfish, wealthy, womanizing bigot whose blood pressure seems to be rising by the minute. (The original play featured Fabrice Luchini, who likely added more pathos and empathy to the role. Clavier’s forte is in portraying bloated egomaniacs.)
Some of the jokes work when they focus on Michel’s irascibility, and how it’s about to boil over. Others are for acquired tastes, such as when he finds out his hapless son (Sebastien Castro) has sheltered a poor Philippine clan upstairs. “What is this, the Third World?” Michel clamors, but not before making eyes at the family’s teenage daughter. It’s enough to have you heading for the exit or rolling in your seat, depending on your tolerance level. (French audiences are more forgiving in this regard.)
Although Leconte is known in the U.S. for artsier films like Ridicule or The Girl on the Bridge, he’s been doing broad comedies like this for decades, beginning with the 1978 mega-hit Les Bronzes, which made Clavier a local celebrity. The two know how to time their gags well, and Do Not Disturb is swiftly paced and thankfully succinct at just under 80 minutes. But the controlled chaos on display is hard to swallow for extended stretches, as is the film’s ultimate attempt to redeem Michel through one of the lamest “save the cat” scenes ever. Apparently, this d-bag is a nice guy after all.
Production companies: Fidelite Films
Cast: Christian Clavier, Carole Bouquet, Valerie Bonneton, Rossy de Palma, Stephane de Groodt, Sebastien Castro
Director: Patrice Leconte
Screenwriter: Florian Zeller, based on his play “Une heure de tranquilite”
Producers: Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier
Executive producer: Christine de Jekel
Director of photography: Jean-Marie Dreujou
Production designer: Ivan Maussion
Costume designer: Anne Perier Bertaux
Editor: Joelle Hache
Casting director: Gerard Moulevrier
Sales: Wild Bunch
No rating, 79 minutes
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