TBT: Review – Le Prénom

This Throwback Thursday I would like to go back to a foreign movie that I absolutely loved. It is so original and so hilarious, I do not think I have ever seen anything like it. Very enjoyable, and you do not have to speak French to get the jokes! In Le Prénom a brother reveals the first name of his child during a family dinner. The name is not appreciated very much, which ends up in a hilarious family fight.

The movie tells the story of a family that gets together for dinner. Elizabeth and Peter (an older couple) invites Elizabeth’s brother Vincent and his pregnant wife Anna. Family friend Claude is invited too, expecting to have a lovely dinner, but this one is all but lovely.

Theatre play
Le Prénom is the first movie of directors Alexandre de La Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte, who used to be writers of television shows like Le Petit Prince and Skyland. Now they have chosen to make a movie out of a funny play. It is a comedy in which the jokes are not fired one after the other, as funny topics are balanced with more serious ones. That is mainly because of Vincent. His wife Anna arrives way too late at the dinner party, which makes him decide to announce the child’s name by himself. It is a very shocking name, so first everybody thinks it is a joke. But, then Peter finally gets that Vincent lost his mind. When the pregnant Anna joins the dinner table, things get even more crazy.

Pizza delivery guy
The movie starts with shots of the streets of Paris. Which person in history has been murdered in what way; the voice-over calls out many different history facts, while we follow a pizza delivery guy on his route through the romantic city. The pizza delivery guy does not have a part in the movie, but he does deliver the pizza’s in the wrong place: at Elizabeth and Peters house. In a very quick tempo the many different characters in the movie are introduced. The first half hour of the movie there are a lot of references to French things many other people would not understand. Thankfully it is not an issue, as the movie is still easy to understand. After everybody has been introduced, it’s dinner time, and then the true colors of everyone start to show. The conversations can be quiet and nice, but they often change in heated discussions that do not end well for everyone. Almost the whole movie is filmed in the living room of Elizabeth and Peter, and reminds me (mainly due to the many fights) of Roman Polanski’s Carnage.

Family feud
But, there are way more layers in this funny flick. Especially because it is about family and people that are very close, which makes it easy to figure out who has which role in the group. The directors La Patellière and Delaporte do not make them caricatures, but they keep them as human as possible. Vincent looks like a preppy guy who probably visits a country club every week to enjoy a good glass of wine, but during the movie it gets crystal clear that he is just a small guy in a grown man’s body. The topics in the movie are simply very taboo, which makes the joke great moments for discharge. The conversations of the family pull you in, they are interesting and intelligent, and they are mixed with moments of fun and relaxation. But, there are pieces in this movie that go a bit too far, and they start talking about topics that are not really relevant, which is a bit distracting.

The biggest problem with Le Prénom is that there is not a nice flow in the movie. It starts with a super fast enumeration of how people work, and then it gets very calm when everybody knocks on Elizabeth and Peters door for the dinner. The tension builds up nice and slow, but in the second half of the movie there are so many outbursts that are combined with slow moments that feel too slow… And the second half is simply a lot less funny, as all family matters have come to a boiling point and it just gets down to some emotional blah blah.

My verdict is that Le Prénom would be so much better if it is was about the name of the unborn child of Vincent and Anna, with some sidesteps to youth memories. Now it seems the directors want to start too many new topics. The first half of the movie is extremely funny. They build up to this huuuge fight about the name of the child, which reveals a piece of everybody’s soul. In the second half the movie is still interesting, but it does not really impress. The tension and the humor mostly disappears, which gets worse due to the chaos and variety of topics that come along (being whispered, shouted and bickered!).

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