WELCOME TO THE STICKS
Post office manager Philippe Abrams (Kad Merad) and his wife, Julie (Zoe Felix) love the South of France but when he's found out trying to cheat his way to a posting to the Riviera, he is sent to the dreaded Nord Pas de Calais region for two years. This is France's northernmost region, noted for bad weather, nasty factories and weird food, and socially repressed locals who speak with a terrible dialect. Leaving behind his wife and son Raphael, (Lorenzo Ausilia-Foret), Philippe soon finds to his surprise that he's adapting well and enjoying his new environment, with local chum Antoine (Dany Boon). He's reluctant to tell the pessimistic Julie, feeding her horror stories she'd expect. But then Julie decides to be the tangibly supportive wife and move north to be with him ....
Review by Louise Keller:
I caught myself smiling throughout this charmer of a film that is so good natured it simply rubs off on you. The film's premise hinges on a harmless deception, but one that accumulates in emotional and humorous terms. Although the storyline is different, the film is reminiscent of the marvellous Seducing Dr Lewis in which a whole community conspires to make the newcomer doctor feel comfortable about his new environment. In Dany Boon's delightful film, the premise juggles the preconceptions, prejudices and unique differences between the north and the south of France as it explores the colloquialisms, the peculiarities and characteristics of the locals. In France, the locals have 'got' every nuance of the joke (it is the most successful French film of all time), and not surprisingly, it is not lost in translation. This is a sweet and funny film which is so honest don't be surprised if you also shed a little tear.
The news is worse than being fired.... instead of his longed-for, awaited transfer to the South of France, Kad Merad's post office manager Philippe Abrams is instead relegated (horror of horrors!) to the North. Almost worse than being sent to Belgium (which for the French is about as bad as it gets!), he braces himself for the inevitable -where the locals suffer miserable cold weather and a strange dialect that is a language all of its own. But wait... before Philippe is sent to Bergues, there is a wonderful scene in which he pretends (unsuccessfully) to be disabled in a final bid to get his posting to the South. And then he is on his way. 'Be brave,' says the policeman who stops him en route when driving too slowly, and before long he has arrived and is thrown into the deep end of a community with a unique charm of its own. Philippe's initiation is peppered with big laughs as he finds his feet, befriends the locals and gets into the swing of the lingo in which the sound 'scht' figures prominently in most words. Dany Boon's Antoine Bailleul, the local postal worker with the drinking problem and the mother from hell, is the first person he meets. Antoine plays the chimes in the church belfry, is smitten by the lovely Annabelle (Anne Marivin) and doesn't seem able to get away from the clutches of his mother (Line Renaud) with whom he lives.
The deception between Philippe and his wife Julie (Zoé Félix) starts unintentionally and once Julie is convinced life is hell up north, it is easier for Philippe to go along with her. Philippe and Antoine become friends and the scene in which the two men get more and more tipsy together as they deliver mail door to door and accept the hospitality offered is hilarious. 'When a stranger comes north he brays twice - once on arrival, once on leaving,' Antoine tells Philippe, a sentiment that proves to be true. Things hot up when Julie decides to see what 'The Schticks' is like for herself and our hearts are in our mouths as we wait to see what will happen. Thoroughly enjoyable and contagiously funny, this is solid French gold.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For Australians it might be the Noosa versus Melbourne's Dandenong, but for France it's the Riviera versus the Nord Pas de Calais. One is warm, sunny, bright and sophisticated, the other is ... not any of those things. But (perhaps a bit like the Noosa and Dandenong) the reality is not the image. In this comedy about misconceptions, love and true friendship, Danny Boon gives us an enjoyable lesson in avoiding making assumptions about people. And although it's not quite as funny for the non-French audiences due to the layer of humour derived from the hilarious peculiarities of the Pas de Calais dialect (for the French who live elsewhere), it is still an entertaining, charming and touching film.
Danny Boon and Kad Merad make the most of their characters as postal workers in suburban France, although we don't see much work being done. (Perhaps that's a Freudian slip?) Merad is great as the hapless post office manager with dreams of a Riviera posting gone to hell, and Boon is both funny and touching as the unlikely friend. Zoe Felix has the hard role of the wife who starts out as a high maintenance, pessimistic nag, whose turnaround is one of the film's delights. She does a great job.
All the supports are excellent, and there is a romantic mini subplot that works well, but it's really the good story in an effervescent script with unfussy direction that propel the comedy along the top of the dramatic wave for a successful beach landing.
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WELCOME TO THE STICKS (M)
Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis
CAST: Kad Merad, Danny Boon, Zoe Felix, Lorenzo Ausilia-Foret, Ann Marivin, Philippe Duquesne, Guy Lecluyse
PRODUCER: Claude Berri, Jerome Seydoux
DIRECTOR: Dany Boon
SCRIPT: Dany Boon, Alexandre Charlot, Franck Magnier
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pierre Aim
EDITOR: Luc Barnier, Julie Delord
MUSIC: Philippe Rombi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alain Veyssier
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 4, 2008
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