DINNER GUEST, THE
Fifty years old and unemployed for three years, Gérard (Daniel Auteuil) is getting desperate when, out of the blue, he is offered a job in Indonesia. Determined to make a good impression on his new boss (Hippolyte Girardot), Gérard invites him to dinner. A BIG mistake! Panic-stricken, Colette (Valèrie Lemercier), Gérard's wife, is a terrible cook but help is on hand thanks to Alexandre (Thierry Lhermitte), their PR guru neighbour. Alexandre - while fending off a one-night stand friend in Sophia (Mar Sodupe) - gives the couple the ultimate 24-hour makeover, adjusting their apartment, interior design, lifestyle, taste buds, fashion sense, general knowledge... the process is filled with drama, mishaps, misunderstandings and general bungling. It is with frazzled nerves that Gérard and Colette open the door to welcome their dinner guest.
Review by Louise Keller:
A frivolous comedy of errors made entertaining by its esteemed cast, The Dinner Guest is scrumptious in parts but doesn't quite live up to expectations. Having said that, it is hard to be too critical of any film whose cast includes Daniel Auteuil, Thierry L'Hermitte and Valérie Lemercier. Based on a play by David Pharao, who has also penned the screenplay, the premise is simple good fun. Unemployed loser invites future employer to dinner, but wife can't cook. That's where the story begins, and of course we know that everything will go wrong.
The film begins with a scene in which a terrified would-be bungee jumper is pushed off his ledge. His comfort zone plummets as does that of the film's central characters who we are about to meet. Auteuil's Gérard is a model train aficionado: his electric train set has taken over the entire apartment, while Lemercier's Colette is a tactful but undomesticated wife, always eager to please. When Thierry Lhermitte's smooth-talking neighbour Alexandre hears about the impending dinner guest the following night, his well-intentioned 'make-over' becomes a source of angst. Suddenly Gérard and Colette are overly aware of their bourgeois taste in art, clothes, music and food.
The pleasures of the film lie in wondering whatever can go wrong next and I am not about to divulge them here. But I did laugh when Gérard's suit trousers become stiff on the freezing balcony after a bathtub accident, and when Colette unpacks hearty slabs of beef, when Alexandre had asked her to buy a 'beefy burgundy'. It doesn't hold a candle to The Dinner Game, which is worth seeing again and again, but The Dinner Guest is worthy of an invitation.
Review By Andrew L. Urban:
The best part of The Dinner Guest is that it upends our expectations both in the development of the story and in its often satirical content. The nerdy couple 'rescued' by a sophisticate turn out to be not so needy after all, and the sophisticate is not such a big success as he makes out. As for the boss that Gérard is hoping to impress, writer David Pharao uses him as a mouthpiece for some of the worst moral failures of corporate France.
Thierry Lhermitte, Daniel Auteuil and Valèrie Lemercier spark off each other's resolutely energetic performances and work the drama as well as the comedy to the hilt. The seriousness of the underlying material only adds to the depth of the humour, and we are often laughing at the human weaknesses that afflict both sides of the social divide. It is typical French material, this, up to its elbows in social distinctions as the engine for character based comedy. But it plays both sides of the street, the bourgeois and the honest, unsophisticated side where lack of finesse is a virtue.
The film is often laugh out loud funny, thanks to the beautifully judged performances and the perfect pace that director Laurent Bouhnik dictates. And do not imagine that this is a cheap revisit to Francis Veber's hilarious The Dinner Game; the only connection is that Thierry Lhermitte appears in both, and the comedy uses social differences for fuel.
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DINNER GUEST, THE (PG)
CAST: Daniel Auteuil, Thierry Lhermitte, Valèrie Lemercier, Hippolyte Girardot, Arthus de Penguern, Pascale Dinizani
PRODUCER: Maurice Illouz
DIRECTOR: Laurent Bouhnik
SCRIPT: David Pharao (novel by Pharao)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean-Paul Agostini
EDITOR: Hervé de Luze, Frédéric Toroval
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jacques Bufnoir
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy/Sharmill
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: NSW & Vic: March 20; ACT, Qld, SA, WA: April 20, 2008
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