Friday, May 24, 2019

French fun and games in Laurent Tirard's period charmer, RETURN OF THE HERO

A French frolic worth seeking out (it made its DVD debut last week and is also now available via digital/streaming), RETURN OF THE HERO proves one of those exceedingly rare costume comedies that should have you smiling, chuckling and occasionally outright guffawing at the antics of the clever (or not so) characters on screen.

This is, unfortunately, the kind of movie that gets lost in the shuffle precisely because it has nothing to offer -- no important theme, no great art, nor maybe any redeeming social value -- other than first-class entertainment. That last, of course, never in great supply, should be reason enough to see it.

As written and directed by Laurent Tirard (of the Nicholas movies) -- a writer and filmmaker, shown at right, that our critical establishment, as well as perhaps its French equivalent, prefers not to take seriously and therefore deliberately overlooks the work of -- the movie knows exactly what it is and where it is going and thus arrives there in its breezy 89 minutes with nary a hitch.

Return of the Hero is anchored by the terrific performances of its two leads: Jean Dujardin (above, left, and below, right) and Mélanie Laurent (above, right and below, left), both at the top of their very fine form.

M. Dujardin is in his element, playing a handsome, pompous would-be military officer (only his uniform, we suspect, is real, and most probably belongs to somebody else), while Ms Laurent, more often seen in serious roles, here gives her penchant for subtle comedy its rein and matches her co-star, gibe for delightful gibe.

When at film's beginning, "Captain" Neuville (Dujardin) proposes to Pauline, the younger daughter (Noémie Merlant, above, front right) of the wealthy Beaugrand family, Laurent -- as the older, wiser sis -- smells trouble and goes on high alert.

What happens in the course of this smart little movie is not quite the expected, as one surprise topples over the next, in the course of which love and justice are both somehow served, though not in the manner we might have expected.

The supporting cast is as good as are the leads, with Christian Bujeau and Evelyne Buyle (above, left and right respectively) playing the foolish, funny Beaugrand parents, and an actor new to me, Christophe Montenez (below, right), especially fine as the endearing young man in love with the wrongly besotted Pauline.

By the finale of the film, our two main characters have grown and changed, and you may feel, as did TrustMovies, that writer/director Tirard has made a smart, snide and subtle comment about the worth of the society of the time (early 19th Century France) via the direction his "hero" and "heroine" choose to take.

All in all, a highly enjoyable little lark, Return of the Hero never received even a limited theatrical release here in the USA, so we must be grateful to Icarus Home Video and Distrib Films US for the opportunity to finally see it -- available now on DVD and/or streaming, for purchase or rental.

No comments: