True Friends: COLCOA Review

True Friends COLCOA Film Still - H 2013
Jérôme Prébois

True Friends COLCOA Film Still - H 2013

This distinctly bourgeois dramedy consistently misses out on any pretense of topicality.

Cesar award-winner Gerard Lanvin leads the ensemble cast of this French debut feature.

Distinguished principally by mediocrity at almost every level, True Friends’ middlebrow aspirations are well-fulfilled, rarely challenging either filmmakers, cast or audience to venture beyond a familiarly cozy comfort zone.  After opening in France earlier this year, the film could attract mild theatrical interest Stateside, although home entertainment formats may prove marginally more lucrative.

Divorced and moderately obsessive Walter (Gerard Lanvin), a middle-aged restaurant operator, is about to open a new eatery, hoping to garner his first Michelin star. So he’s understandably rather tense around his lifelong best friends, novelist Paul (Jean-Hugues Anglade) and metaphysical bookstore owner Jacques (Wladimir Yordanof), both of whom he lunches with weekly at Jacques’s shop.

His buddies are equally edgy, though for different reasons. Paul is in the throes of a torrid, secretive relationship with Walter’s university-aged daughter Clemence (Ana Girardot), a spoiled young American lit grad student. Meanwhile Jacques is trying to decide whether to run for mayor, concerned that press scrutiny could publicly disclose the barely concealed fact that he’s gay, a situation that apparently escapes only Walter's notice among his close friends.

As everyone tiptoes around, wary of triggering Walter’s notoriously bad temper and knee-jerk abhorrence of untruthfulness, little clues gradually begin trickling out, arousing his suspicions and repeated rounds of aggressive questioning. Nobody’s quite sure whether Walter can assimilate the realities of his shifting relationships with friends and family members, but events may quickly put these developments well beyond anyone’s individual control.

The slim setup in the script adapted by first-time filmmakers Stephan Archinard and Francois Prevot-Leygonie from their original theater piece yields equally meager rewards. Set in the milieu of the privileged urban middle class, this bourgeois dramedy somehow misses out on any semblance of topicality or opportunity to exploit potentially profitable situations. Walter’s pursuit of a Michelin star for his restaurant is treated with scant attention to the drama inherent in such a tricky undertaking. Jacques’ bookshop, instead of being a testament to his barricade-storming Socialist youth, gets rendered as a nook of quiet contemplation and camaraderie for the trio of longtime friends.

Although the filmmakers’ focus on character development may be admirable, it’s not especially compelling. While the good-natured performances are passable overall, there’s little sense that the actors are particularly invested in their roles, although the directors manage to mostly avoid distracting staginess. Otherwise, the filmmaking displays an inoffensive lack of originality that aptly suits the material.

Venue: City of Lights, City of Angeles (COLCOA)

Production company: Wy Productions

Cast: Gerard Lanvin, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Wladimir Yordanof, Ana Girardot, Zabou Breitman

Directors: Stephan Archinard, Francois Prevot-Leygonie

Writers: Stephan Archinard, Francois Prevot-Leygonie, Marie-Pierre Huster

Producer: Wassim Beji

Director of photography:Stephan Massis

Production designer: Jean-Luc Raoul

Music: Come Aguiar, Jerome Rebotier

Editor: Reynald Bertrand

Sales: SND Groupe M6

No rating, 104 minutes