Review: 'Chicken With Plums'
BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, November 02, 2012
11/02/12 at 4:09 AM
"Chicken With Plums" is a French fairy tale for adults, a work that envisions itself as something operatic in scale, but which if told to insomniacs at bedtime, would cure them of their fitful rest.
I was not among those who fell head over heels for "Persepolis," the Oscar-nominated animated tale from the writing-directing team of Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi about a young Iranian girl's coming of age during the Islamic Revolution.
I found that work to have interesting ideas, exceptional animation and poor execution. I find their work on the live-action downer of a farce "Chicken With Plums" to follow the same pattern but without ideas that intrigue.
This story of an artist who is lost without his instrument - when a man's violin is broken, and no other can produce the same sound, he takes to bed to die - stars Mathieu Amalric, the talent at the center of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and the villain in the 2008 James Bond adventure "Quantum of Solace."
But in this wildly uneven film, he is reduced to a French ham who can't be cured of overacting.
He seems to see himself as something of a Charles Chaplin-type, slapsticking his way through as the picture employs comedic oddities ranging from flashbacks about his marriage to a woman whom he doesn't love to flash-forwards about his children's star-crossed futures.
Such magical realism occurs repeatedly in the form of animation that appears when the filmmakers apparently don't know where to go with their live-action storytelling. Perhaps that's not surprising when their task is to portray a selfish, irresponsible lout whose plight is one with which audiences may fail to connect.
This man vs. the world device leaves the rest of the cast looking confused because of poorly conceived roles and - despite the filmmaking hijinks on display here - a sheer lack of imagination.
It is sad that the rest of the film couldn't have been as inspired as the final few minutes, when the directors create an ending from out of nowhere - in a love-never-dies subplot - that proves to be moving.
"Chicken With Plums" is a dish that proves less than filling before this dessert of a conclusion.
‘CHICKEN WITH PLUMS’
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Maria de Medeiros,
Theater: Circle Cinema
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (some drug content, violent
images, sensuality and smoking)
Quality: (on a scale of zero to four
Note: in French, with English subtitles
Original Print Headline: French film a downer of a farce
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Golshifteh Farahani and Mathieu Amalric star in the French-language film "Chicken With Plums." Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy