Le Jeu – Netflix (review)

    Nothing to Hide or Le Jeu, to give it its French title, is a film about seven adult friends, three couples and one man whose partner cannot attend, who meet up for a dinner party. The film explores the dynamics not only between the friends but also that of each couple and individual.

     A quick peruse of IMDB shows that it is actually a remake of a 2016 Italian film, Perfect Strangers ( Perfetti Sconosciuti). It has also been remade in Spanish – Perfectos desconocidos – so that is the same film in three years, three different languages. People really do not like reading subtitles.  Having said that, further investigation shows it even has a Mexican version, which is just lazy! 

   In this French version of the dinner party story, the host, Marie and Vincent,  (Bérénice Bejo and Stéphane De Groodt), are a professional couple with a teenage daughter. Margot (Fleur Fitoussi). They invite Charlotte (Suzanne Clément) and Marco (Roschdy Zem), Thomas (Vincent Elbaz) and Lea (Doria Tillier) and Ben (Grégory Gadebois). 

    Marie, a psychotherapist, and her daughter have a difficult relationship. Margot rebels against and resents her mother’s professional approach to parenting. Vincent is more relaxed. Charlotte and Marco have two young children that are being looked after by Marco’s mother whilst they are out, something that does not seem to sit well with Charlotte. 

    Charlotte also is somewhat passive aggressive towards Marco, with her barely concealed displeasure at him more apparent as the wine flows. Thomas and Lea have no children and are not long married. They are both relaxed and happy, no signs of tension in their relationship. 

   The group are all curious about Ben’s new girlfriend, eagerly awaiting his arrival. When Ben does arrive, he is alone. He tells the group that his girlfriend has stomach flu. After a bit of chat and Ben’s insistence on a group photograph, they all sit down to dinner. 

    As the talk continues, Marie remarks on how wed to their phone everyone is. After a brief discussion, she proposes a game of sorts. They are all to place their phones on the table and whatever messages they receive have to be heard or read out to all who are present. After some push back, most notably from Marco, they all agree to join in. 

   What unfolds after that is an intriguing look at the many tenets that underpin relationships. Not only the spousal relations, but those between friends and the sexes. The things that are never said. The true thoughts and views they hold. The secrets they keep. The uncomfortable choices that are made, hoping that no one notices or finds out about them. 

   The entire film takes place in Marie and Vincent’s apartment, with separate, one on one conversations, taking place in either the kitchen or on the balcony. When the entire group are together, the film is at the dining table. 

    With the alcohol flowing and the whole group committed to the game, insisting on every text, email and voice call or message being public, the tensions in the room continue to build. With the dynamics of all the characters – Marco always stirring, Charlotte drunken and emotional, Lea innocently playful, Thomas unaccountably anxious and Ben quiet and watchful. 

    Vincent considerate but feeling somewhat emasculated by his wife Marie who, even though he is a doctor, a plastic surgeon, does not respect his medical practice. 

    There is a scene in the film when the daughter rings and speaks to her father, voicing her disappointment at the fact that her mother does not understand her or listen to her. It is a brilliant scene, a conversation between father and daughter, where she, as a seventeen-year-old girl, needs to talk about a situation with a boy. Marie’s pain at the fact that her daughter cannot speak to her, much more comfortable talking to her father, is obvious and heartbreaking. 

    After that scene the film just accelerates from one drama to another. Every message, every text, every call, another bombshell or catalyst to a revelation, to more prejudices exposed. Le Jeu is an ensemble masterclass in acting, every performance is flawless. The script is an absolute joy and you believe that all involved could, in some universe, be longtime friends. 

   The way the film ends is probably not for everyone, as it can be seen as a bit of a cop-out. Personally, I found the film’s end to be perfect, concluding proceedings without leaving any questions unanswered.

   Filippo Bologna’s story is obviously very strong and compelling having spawned four films in as many years. I, having only seen the French interpretation, can only recommend that you add Le Jeu to your Netflix watch list. Superb. 

    

Call My Agent! (Dix Pour Cent) Netflix show – review

     Watched a new show, to me at least, on Netflix in keeping with my efforts to watch and review lesser known shows so that, perhaps, you do not have to. The show is a French serial, Dix Pour Cent, English title, Call My Agent!. A comedy-drama, it is the story of a Parisian talent agency, ASK, and the relationships of the agents with each other, their actors and life in general. 

    When the owner and primary shareholder of the agency, Samuel Kerr (Alain Rimoux) dies whilst on vacation, his widow, Héléne (Gabrielle Forest), turns up at the offices of ASK and informs the remaining agents that she wants to sell her shares in the company to the highest bidder, throwing the future of the agency into turmoil. 

    An excellent ensemble cast sees most of the characters taking centre stage at various points in the varying stories. If pushed to say who is the central character of the show, I would have to say, Andrea Martel, the complex, driven, sexually aggressive lesbian played by Camille Cottin.

    Andrea links most of the main protagonist. Her closest friend and a man whose desire to be a good agent clashes with his moral compass, Gabriel Sarda (Grégory Montel), butts heads with her and comforts her, listens to her. 

    Camille Valentini (Fanny Sidney) is a young woman from Cannes who turns up at the agency and startles Mathias Barneville (Thibault De Montalembert) one of the leading agents at ASK. He is also the de facto leader after Samuel’s death.

Mathias is cordial toward Camille but seems reluctant to have anyone know that he and she are acquainted. He tries to pay her off so she will go away. Camille instead boldly asks Andrea to employ when her previous assistant walks out unable to take the pressure of working for her anymore. Andrea gives her the job and Camille becomes part of the ASK family. 

   Arlette Azémar is a longtime talent agent. She smokes too much and brings her dog to work. There is also Hervé André-Jezak (Nicolas Maury), the camp, gossipy assistant to Gabriel, who takes Camille under his wing, even as Noémie Leclerc (Laure Calamy), Mathias’ assistant eyes her with suspicion, having caught her on a couple of occasions in clandestine conversation with Mathias. 

     I watched the entire first season in two days. With episodes running at just under an hour, three episodes take up a fair chunk of one’s evening. That being said, it is not time that is wasted when it comes to this show.

Even as a non-French speaker and thus forced to read the subtitles – it has not been dubbed into English. Not a massive fan of dubbed shows anyway – I perhaps miss some of the subtleties of the native speech.  Having said that, the acting is so good and the characters and stories so compelling that this show is an absolute delight.

     With ASK being a fictional Parisian agency, the show still manages to have an air of authenticity by having real actors playing exaggerated versions of themselves as clients of ASK. This, I would think, must be particularly appealing to French viewers, giving the vibe of a peek into their working practices, even if one knows it is scripted. 

    The show is beautifully shot, utilising the city of Paris without resorting to cliched scenery. There is no Eiffel Tower on view in this show. Fanny Herrero is the brilliant mind that has conceived this show. She is the showrunner and contributes to the writing on the show. 

   Call My Agent! Is a truly entertaining and brilliant show and I will be watching the second season in between watching all the other Netflix fare that is available. The show almost makes me want to learn French so as to appreciate the nuances of the language. I think I’ll stick with learning Spanish for the moment but I heartily recommend this show. Absolutely worth a few hours of your time.