'My Days of Glory' ('Mes jours de gloire'): Film Review | Venice 2019

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A scruffy, sad comedy carried by its lead.

Vincent Lacoste ('Sorry Angel,' 'The French Kissers') stars in the debut feature from writer-director Antoine de Bary, which premiered in Venice's Orizzonti sidebar.

The 26-year-old French star Vincent Lacoste continues his winning streak playing certified losers in My Days of Glory (Mes jours de gloire), an enjoyable shaggy-dog story that’s somewhere between early Woody Allen and the bluesy Paris-set coming-of-age romances of Christophe Honoré.

Funny in places and overtly depressing in others, it marks an amusingly offbeat debut from writer-director Antoine de Bary, who adapted from his own Cannes prize-winning short. Premiering in Venice’s Orizzonti sidebar and slated for release in France next year, Glory is the kind of easygoing arthouse flick that could find traction outside Europe, with Lacoste providing the main selling point.

After portraying four different kinds of down-and-outers in four movies last year (Honoré’s Sorry Angel, the terrorist drama Amanda, the med school chronicle The Freshman and the Parisian family comedy Father and Sons), Lacoste plays yet another loser-type here as Adrien — a former child actor who can’t pay the rent, can’t keep a girlfriend let alone get one, and can’t grow up even if he’s on the cusp of 30.

Evicted from his apartment early on — in the opening scene, Adrien pranks the fire department so he can sneak back in after forgetting his keys — he winds up back at his parents’ stuffy flat, sleeping in the office of his psychoanalyst mom (Emmanuelle Devos) while his father (Christophe Lambert) hides out upstairs in the maid’s room. The fact that his folks are getting divorced is only one tidbit of bad news in Adrien’s life. He’s also broke, unemployed, lonely and experiencing erectile dysfunction.

On the upside, he’s landed what may be a major new role: playing a young Charles de Gaulle in a biopic directed by an ambitious German auteur who needs a full-time translator. Many of the film’s more amusing scenes involve Adrien trying to fit the pants — literally at one point, in a sequence set in a costume house — of France’s most famous president, with the irony being that Adrien is probably the least qualified person in the entire nation to do so, both acting-wise and in general.

For at least half the running time, we nonetheless hold out hope that he’ll get his life in order and even get the girl — in this case a younger student (Noée Abita) who seems to enjoy his unruly antics. But unlike many comedies, My Days of Glory actually grows even more despondent as the plot progresses, with Adrien falling into an extremely long funk in the third act for which there seems to be no available remedy.

And yet, de Bary and co-writer Elias Belkeddar continuously pummel their antihero into the ground for a reason, because the problem with Adrien isn’t that his life isn’t great — whose is? — but that he’s clinically incapable of admitting it. In fact, he tries so hard to save face that he even passes off a suicide attempt as a bad accident.

This is a role perfectly catered to Lacoste’s talent for playing a total mess who’s at once naïve, charming, slightly seductive and heartbreakingly vulnerable. Adrien is the kind of guy who always looks like he just woke up — a telling scene shows that he has no idea how to knot his own tie — and yet he can disarm you with a smile or a weird joke.

The laughter wanes too much in the film’s latter reels, when Adrien gets really down in the doldrums, and it feels like certain plot points were left on the editing table and never fully worked out. At times, My Days of Glory can seem as disorderly as its protagonist, and one wonders whether the chaos was deliberate or merely the result of a first-time director still figuring his movie out.

Either way, Lacoste once again wins us over by the end, although he does it less through humor than by revealing Adrien's innate fragility. Like other Lacostian characters, we ultimately love this one not because of what he does or who he becomes, but because he remains painfully, comically and inevitably himself.

Production companies: Iconoclast, Tribus P Film
Cast: Vincent Lacoste, Emmanuelle Devos, Christophe Lambert, Noée Abita
Director: Antoine de Bary
Screenwriters: Antoine de Bary, Elias Belkeddar
Producers: Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Elias Belkeddar, Mourad Belkeddar, Jean Duhamel, Nicolas Lhermitte, Paul-Dominique Win Vacharasinthu
Director of photography: Nicolas Loir
Editor: Joëlle Hache
Casting director: Julie Navarro
Venue: Venice International Film Festival (Orrizonti)
Sales: Bac Films

In French
98 minutes