'All About Yves' ('Yves'): Film Review | Cannes 2019

Courtesy of Directors’ Fortnight
A rapper and a refrigerator make ice ice baby in this outlandish French comedy.

Writer-director Benoit Forgeard’s second feature, starring William Lebghil and Doria Tillier, closed out the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes.

If John Waters made a movie in France whose protagonists included a wannabe rapper, the girl of his dreams and a talking refrigerator — and where, at some point, all of them had sex — then it would probably be something like All About Yves (Yves). It would probably even be called All About Yves.

The second feature from Gallic space oddity Benoit Forgeard, whose previous film played in Cannes’ ACID sidebar (Yves closes out the Directors’ Fortnight), this over-the-top, totally bonkers, if occasionally funny and mostly fun, comedy overstays its welcome but is also a memorably weird experience. Francophone viewers could groove to it as a cult item that mixes hip-hop with high-tech insanity, while festivals and a few daring distributors may dig something that thinks so far out of the box.

In a nutshell: Jerem (William Lebghil), short for Jeremy, is a struggling French MC who records rap tracks in his garage that are heard by exactly nobody. For unknown reasons, he’s chosen to be the product tester of a state-of-the-art refrigerator, or “Fribot,” named Yves (voiced by Antoine Gouy), best described as a Sub-Zero-type device inhabited by the mind of 2001’s HAL 9000 and the musical prowess of contemporary beatmakers like Drake's 40 and Boi-1da.

Initially, Jerem doesn’t love the fact that his fridge can speak its mind, question his diet and prevent him from eating his usual breakfast of champions, which consists of bananas, cookies and chocolate syrup. But he begins to warm up to the machine when So (Doria Tillier), a statistician who works at Digital Cool, the company behind Yves, begins to pay Jerem regular visits to see whether or not he can jive with the new technology.

Thus begins something like a three-way romance between man, woman and kitchen appliance, as Jerem learns to embrace Yves as his confidant and career coach, all the while trying to win over So’s heart. Faster than you can say ice maker, Yves is not only giving Jerem dating tips, but also helping him out in the studio, taking the rapper’s rhymes and remixing them into Auto-Tuned club bangers that become instant hits online.

As ridiculous as this sounds — and All About Yves is unapologetically ridiculous, as well as overstretched at 107 minutes (90 would have been just fine) — the film remains mostly enjoyable thanks to rising star Lebghil (The Freshman, C’est la vie!), who plays Jerem as a major loser and a bit of a jerk, but in a way that’s unexpectedly touching. He also nails the film’s various rap scenes, spitting out scores of absurd lyrics — “It’s my bro, it’s my frig-o,” "Treat me like a fridge, only like a fridge" — with convincing swagger, as if Eminem had mind-melded with a skinny Frenchie from the distant and totally dull Paris suburb of Saint-Nom-la-Breteche, where the film's action is set.

Things get out of hand in the last act, which dips into tongue-in-cheek melodrama before culminating in a hilarious rap battle and then a total, um, de-Bosch-ery, that needs to be seen to be believed. Indeed, a director like Waters would be proud that Forgeard took such a premise so far, and then even farther, compensating for his movie’s preposterous plot by doubling down on the preposterousness. This is really a filmmaker who could care less about what we think, though his outré humor is never mean-spirited and actually somewhat convivial in the end, if also rather tiresome.

Whereas Forgeard’s first feature, Gaz de France, was a surreal political satire made with way too much greenscreen, All About Yves benefits from better production values, including naturalistic photography from DPs Thomas Favel and Yannig Willmann, and production design from Anne-Sophie Delseries and Margaux Remaury that gives viewers lots of fun details to chew on.

Alongside Lebghil and convincing co-star Tillier (also headlining Nicolas Bedos’ well-received Cannes entry, La Belle Epoque), the cast features an array of amusing character actors, including singers Philippe Katerine and Alka Balbir as a couple with their own talking fridge (named Vincent), and the mono-monikered Darius as Digital Cool's ruthless redheaded boss. 

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight)
Production company: Ecce Films
Cast: William Lebghil, Doria Tillier, Philippe Katerine, Alka Balbir, Darius, Antoine Gouy
Director-screenwriter: Benoit Forgeard
Producer: Emmanuel Chaumet
Directors of photography: Thomas Favel, Yannig Willmann
Production designers: Anne-Sophie Delseries, Margaux Remaury
Costume designer: Annie Melz-Tiburce
Editor: Maryline Monthieux
Composer: Bertrand Burgalat
Sales: Le Pacte

In French
107 minutes