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DINNER GAME, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) is a publisher facing a great challenge this day: to find a suitable dinner guest for the weekly party at the home of another obnoxious yuppie, where friends gather with secretly chosen guests who will be riduculed. The guests must be selected on the basis of being nerds, idiots, dummies - laughably so. But then he is alerted to Francois Pignon (Jacques Villeret), a man who seems ideal as an 'idiot' guest, an accountant at the finance ministry with a hobby of building with matchsticks. But before he can parade his guest in front of his friends for a spot of ridicule, Pierre puts his back out at golf and things deteriorate from there. Pignon turns up at Brochant's home expecting to have his work published in a book, but by the time the evening ends, husbands and wives have been left for lovers, a tax inspector is dragged into the fray and finds Brochant's lifestyle relies on tax dodging - and so much more.

"I haven't laughed so much in years. Full of wit and farcical humour that hints at times of slapstick, The Dinner Game is a sheer delight. Francis Veber has taken his wonderful play and crafted it into a marvellous film. If you thought The Odd Couple proved a funny pair, wait until you meet Pierre Brochant and François Pignon, who will test your mental gymnastics and self control, if you don't want to be noticed laughing too loudly in the theatre. Thierry Lhermitte, wonderful as Louis XV in Marquise, is immaculate as Brochant, while Jacques Villeret (a comedic Danny DeVito at times) delights as Pignon; both of the highest pedigree, their performance is a treat. Basically a two hander, the introduction of four additional characters adorn the state of play. Much of the joy of the film lies in the anticipation, which we devour hungrily. It is clever, richly insightful, full of delectable surprises and has a big heart, embellished with life's unpredictable moments. We think we are going in one direction, only to find that both the direction and the agenda have changed. The most wonderful revelation occurs mid film, just as you think you have worked out what is going on. My favourite scene leads into this, when Brochant's superb red wine is tasted and modified. The pay off is well worth it. The execution and inventiveness never ceases: from the cartoon credits, through the opening sequence of a businessman relieving stress by throwing boomerangs in the park to the film's myriads of gourmand delights and yet a final twist. For those who have never seen a sub-titled film, this is the one that will change your thinking. And for the initiated, you'll not want to miss a single moment of this gem. Pity about the English title – it is not nearly as expressive as the original French one, which implies a dinner for cretinous schmucks."
Louise Keller

"The set up is clear and the establishment scenes whizz by like the very fast train that shoots through these opening sequences, where Pignon is introduced - rather, discovered - as the perfect fool and thus perfect dinner guest for this group of nasty men. Then the fun begins, and the script blazes with bravura writing, brilliant scheming and subtle shifts of mood that catch you wondering whether you're enjoying the blood sport that's about to begin or laughing WITH the unfortunate target. . . Forget it. Just sit back - at least as much as you can while doubled up with laughter - and let Veber whisk you through this little house of fun in surrender of your endorphins. The script touches on a myriad aspects of life, from love and marriage to taxes, but with glancing blows and never more than as part of the natural course of a day's (or night's) events. What is truly clever is Veber's ability - thanks to great performances, too - to retain an affection for even his least lovable characters, and infuse them with humanity. It's great value for money, this film: you will chortle your way through the next day at least."
Andrew L. Urban

"The French understand comedy. It's simple. Throw together two opposites. Find a simple problem to be solved, the solution to which leads to a more complex problem. And then another. Play it straight. Yes the French definitely do understand comedy. And few more so than writer/director Francis Veber (La Cage Aux Folles). This latest offering gives us classic comedy at its best. It is very, very funny. It is a delight to watch the remarkably simple premise unfold. While the (virtually) single room setting, the use of the telephone as a device, and the reliance on dialogue are all fairly obvious indicators of the film's theatrical origins, Veber has adapted his original play to the screen, with quite hysterical results. He has been helped to make this often fraught transition by clever set design (Hugues Tissandier) and photography (Luciano Tovoli). Also rising magnificently to the challenge are the key performers. Jacques Villeret, who played Pignon on stage, recreates the idiot role with understatement-led hilarity. Thierry Lhermitte doesn't miss a beat as the hapless Brochant. Offering wonderfully evil support is Daniel Provost as the never-miss-a-trick tax inspector. And here's the interesting thing. Sure most comedies have their evil antagonist, but neither of the main characters in The Dinner Game is particularly likeable. Brochant's antics are arrogant beyond belief and Pignon is so irritating that the film is never likely to fall into sentimental schmaltz as we cheer on the loser. Yet we laugh and are engaged from beginning to end. Yep, the French sure do know how to make a comedy."
Lee Gough

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

See Andrew L. Urban's interview with
THIERRY LHERMITTE

DINNER GAME, THE (M15+)
(Le Dîner de Cons)
(France)

CAST: Thierry Lhermitte, Jacques Villeret, Francis Huster, Daniel Prevost, Alexandra Vandernoot, Catherine Frot

DIRECTOR: Francis Veber

PRODUCER: Alan Poire

SCRIPT: Francis Veber

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Luciano Tovoli A.S.C.

EDITOR: Georges Klotz

MUSIC: Vladimir Cosma

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugues Tissandier

RUNNING TIME: 78 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: June 12, 2000Mp>

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Siren Entertainment

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