'Room(h)ates' ('Sous le meme toit'): Film Review

ROOM(H)ATES - Still 1 -Publicity-H 2017
Courtesy of Roger Arpajou/EuropaCorp/TF1 Films Production
A morose rom-com that strains to be funny.

Louise Bourgoin (‘The Girl From Monaco’) and Gilles Lellouche (‘Point Blank’) star in director Dominique Farrugia’s divorce comedy.

Divorce is all the rage in France these days, at least on the big screen. Comedies like Daddy or Mommy and its lesser sequel, Divorce French Style, have raked in sizeable box-office earnings, while dramas like Maiwenn’s Mon roi and Joachim Lafosse’s After Love — both of which premiered in Cannes — have tracked the ups and downs (mostly the latter) of couples tied together in ways both practical and psychological.

The new French rom-com Room(h)ates (Sous le meme toit) can almost be seen as a slapstick take on the Lafosse movie, which portrayed a pair of separated parents forced to live under the same roof. (Under the Same Roof is the translation of the original French-language title. Whoever came up with the pun Room(h)ates should be severely reprimanded.)

Starring Louise Bourgoin and Gilles Lellouche as a married couple that decides to call it quits, only to wind up stuck together in the same house, this middling effort from writer-director Dominique Farrugia (Bis) offers a few laughs amid lots of predictable plotting, gags and sexist innuendo. It’s much more morose than funny, with a pair of leads who never look like they want to be under the same roof, let alone on the same movie set. Still, the film opened first in France this week, while its Gallic charms could push it into Francophone and other markets looking for easy comic fodder.

Flashing back and forth between a wedding sequence and everything that happened before it, the script (by Farrugia and co-writer Laurent Turner) follows the travails of Yvan (Lellouche) and Delphine (Bourgoin), two parents who’ve been together for 15 years — until the day when Delphine, whose grown bored of the old routine, decides they should try being an open couple.

But when Yvan quickly scores with another woman, Delphine grows madly jealous and asks for a divorce. (If only these pesky women could stick to their word!) She kicks Yvan out, and the latter — who, after several failed career attempts, is trying to become a sports agent — winds up sleeping on a bunch of friends’ couches, and then one night on a park bench (where he’s nearly raped by a homeless man), until he finally returns home, claiming that he has the right to live in 20% of the house he still legally owns.

Thus begin the expected shenanigans: Yvan walks in on Delphine trying to get it on with a doctor she works with at the hospital (she’s a nurse); Yvan walks in on Delphine using her vibrator in the bathtub, making a crack about her new “landing strip” bikini wax; Yvan walks naked into a gathering organized by Delphine’s mom (Nicole Calfan), throwing all the old, horny women into a tizzy; Yvan doesn’t do the dishes; Yvan drinks straight out of the orange juice bottle; Yvan is a total loser.

Despite acting like a pig for most of the movie, Yvan will of course wind up finding redemption in Delphine's eyes, as well of those of his suffering children. Meanwhile, Delphine only gets a few chances to showcase some actual personality, especially when she hijacks a birthday party organized by Yvan (in a scene reminiscent of an excruciatingly unpleasant dinner sequence in the Lafosse film).

Farrugia, who started off with the TV sketch troupe Les Nuls, pitches his humor broadly and rarely catches the viewer off-guard. It’s usually clear where things are headed despite a few twists in the timeline, while the relationship between Yvan and Delphine never feels believable, nor are stars Bourgoin or Lellouche at their very best despite having successfully played comic roles before (the former in the lively pregnancy romp A Happy Event, the latter in the misogynistic The Players).

If broken relationships have made for good drama in recent French films, they haven’t really made for good comedies. Maybe that’s because, like in Room(h)ates, the modus operandi of such movies is to depict two people who seem to hate one another so much, you never believe they were in love in the first place, nor that they ever will be again. It’s as if the filmmakers completely forgot the “romantic” part of the term “rom-com” and only left us with a pile of dirty jokes and a stack of divorce papers.

Production compan: EuropaCorp, TF1 Films Production
Cast: Gilles Lellouche, Louise Bourgoin, Manu Payet, Marilou Berry, Julien Boisselier
Director: Dominique Farrugia
Screenwriters: Laurent Turner, Dominique Farrugia
Executive producer: Dominique Brunner
Director of photography: Remy Chevrin
Production designer: Etienne Mery
Costume designer: Emmanuelle Youchnovski
Editor: Antoine Baudoin
Composer: Julien Jaouen
Casting directors: Swan Pham, Elsa Pharaon
Sales: EuropaCorp

In French
93 minutes