C'est La vie
- Review by Alison Traynor
The bar was always going to be set high for the next work of writer and director duo Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache after the great success of their 2011 film Intouchables. The pair do not disappoint with C’est la Vie, a delightful foray into the wedding-comedy genre, which has proven that they are not just a pair of one-trick ponies. It is evident that their ideas of the genre comes from a carefully studied place, as they exhibit their thorough knowledge and understanding of it throughout this film, adding to the canon with plenty of finesse and a strict adherence to traditional structure and tropes. They choose to remain within the realms of the genre, taking the film at face value and giving it a purpose to simply entertain and induce laughter. Certainly, the film doesn’t attempt anything spectacular or revolutionary, but commendably, it serves its purpose extremely well.
The plot thankfully lacks that indefinable nausea-inducing quality that many other romantic and wedding comedies often exhibit. It tells the story of Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri), a caterer who is faced with the task of organising a wedding in a beautiful 17th century French château. Naturally, this does not go to plan and he is forced to deal with various catastrophes along the way. Due to the constant bickering and angry outbursts from his hilarious assistant Adèle (the impressive breakout talent Eye Haidara), the inappropriate behaviour of his mistress with a much younger staff member, an outbreak of food poisoning, a misbehaving technophobe photographer, the priceless put-downs of his student shadow, a pyjama wearing brother-in-law who won’t stop flirting with the bride and an obnoxious groom with a major superiority complex, things get very complicated very quickly.
A major aspect of C’est la Vie that anybody who watches it could not avoid noticing is its rapid pace, which will likely leave you feeling slightly woozy. There are an abundance of different threads, all progressively intertwining and eventually coming together to weave the piece of comic brilliance that the large ensemble cast have facilitated. Considering the complexly interconnected lives of the quirky characters, this pace allows these characters to be adeptly explored in a short amount of time. This could easily have become confusing or overwhelming, but because the plot is constructed so meticulously it works well, retaining a hyperactive pace while utilising its sharp humour to prevent the tempo from ever becoming tiresome. While the translation to English may not be as comically hard-hitting as in its original language, it is obvious that the script is very well-crafted, with many of the gags relying on clever word-play and misunderstandings.
The main criticism that I would have of the film is that, while the romantic subplot between Adèle and the egomaniacal singer James (Gilles Lellouche) is a welcome, and at times touching addition to the film, the other romantic subplots all feel very banal. The deadpan character of Max will probably remind you of Basil Fawlty, yet he certainly has not found his Sybil in the irritatingly childish Josiane (Suzanne Clément). It would be preferable if the comic plot elements had been left to do the talking instead of the directors bowing to the pressure and including a generic token love story that adds nothing to the film. But, just like the wedding, despite this blunder it still all functions pretty well in the end. As the title says, c’est la vie.