‘Get Well Soon’ (‘Bon Retablissement!’): Film Review

Get Well Soon Still - H 2014
Courtesy of SND

Get Well Soon Still - H 2014

A simpatico if rather stagy French dramedy

“My Afternoons with Marguerite” director Jean Becker’s latest dramedy stars Gerard Lanvin as a bedridden widower who makes a few friends at the hospital

A retired curmudgeon finds his life literally upended when he’s hit by a car and confined to a lengthy hospital stay in Get Well Soon (Bon Retablissement!), the latest senior-skewed crowdpleaser from French director Jean Becker. Not unlike the filmmaker’s recent My Afternoons with Marguerite and Conversations with My Gardner – both of which were released Stateside – this is a broad but witty dramedy that’s perfect for the Gallic AARP set, with a strong central turn from Gerard Lanvin (Point Blank), who spends most of the movie laid up in bed with a cast and a catheter. Too stagy at times yet endearing all the same, the film should score solid numbers with Becker’s local fan base, while niche offshore distributors may again take notice.

Based on the book by Marie-Sabine Roger (which Becker adapted along with the author and Marguerite co-scribe Jean-Loup Dabadie), the story sets itself up straight away when 60-something retiree, Pierre (Lanvin), is sideswiped by a car and sent cascading into the Seine, where he’s rescued by a nearby street hustler (Swann Arlaud). Stuck in the hospital with a fractured leg and plenty of bruises, Pierre spends the next month in bed whining, moaning and reflecting on his life, while eventually making friends with some of the staff and patients.

These include: a tough-as-nails nurse (Claudia Tagbo) who becomes Pierre’s main confidant; a flighty teen (newcomer Mona Jabeur) who keeps stealing his laptop but has a dark secret of her own; a wacky physical therapist (Philippe Rebbot) who provides some slapstick comic relief; a Paris cop (Fred Testot) who’s investigating the accident yet is really looking for a surrogate dad; and Pierre’s younger brother (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), who hooks him up with cigarettes and bad jokes.

It’s not too hard to see where all this is leading, nor is it very surprising when the sourpuss Pierre – who we learn is a widower with a troubled past – slowly crawls out of his shell and opens up to those around him, allowing the good humor and poor public medical care to win him over. Like an Impressionist artist working with a 4-inch brush, the 81-year-old Becker (son of the great director Jacques Becker, Casque d’or) paints these humanist antics in broad strokes, even if the snappy dialogue and strong performances cover up some of the more obvious cliches, including a flashback involving Pierre’s affair with a pianist (Anne-Sophie Lapix).

With most of the action confined to a single room and hallway, Get Well Soon can feel awfully stage-bound at times, despite the colorful widescreen lensing by DP Jean-Claude Larrieu (Bicycling with Moliere). But with a compact 80-minute running time, and a cast of charismatic actors surrounding leading man Lanvin (who’s more lighthearted here than usual), the film gets the job done without too much of a fuss and manages to say a few meaningful things about growing old – or in Pierre’s case, growing up. It’s neither a miracle cure nor an overdose of toxic meds, but rather like a bowl of cinematic chicken soup the way grandma used to make it.

Production companies: Ice 3, KJB Production, SND, France 3 Cinema, Rhone-Alpes Cinema
Cast: Gerard Lanvin, Fred Testot, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Swann Arlaud, Claudia Tagbo, Anne-Sophie Lapix
Director: Jean Becker
Screenwriters: Jean-Loup Dabadie, Marie-Sabine Roger, Jean Becker, based on the book “Bon Retablissement” by Marie-Sabine Roger
Producer: Louis Becker
Director of photography: Jean-Claude Larrieu
Production designer: Therese Ripaud
Costume designer: Anne Perier Bertaux
Editors: Jacques Witta, Franck Nakache
Composer: Nathaniel Mechaly
Casting director: Sylvia Allegre
Sales: SND

No rating, 81 minutes