Serge Richard Bohringer Gabrielle Lio Jean-Mare Francis Huster Henri Jean-Pierre Kalfon Jean Guy Montagne Felix Luis Issermann Alice Marie Issermann Cecile Anne Issermann Pierre Martin Issermann Dressmaker Emmannuelle Riva
With: Jean-Francois Perrier, Michele Hauppenot, Jean-Paul Farre, Heldi Brouzeng, Idwig Stephane, Michel Bonnet.
An interesting cast and a faintly amusing plot idea do not quite combine for kneeslapping comedy in “God, My Mother’s Lover, and the PorkButcher’s Son.” The title alone, which is just as ungainly in the original French, gives a foretaste of the awkwardness apparent throughout this attempt at ensemble comedy. An unconvincing sendup of infidelity in the provinces and mischief in the very young, “God” will soon be gracing Europe’s video stores and the occasional cable broadcast.
Helmer Aline Issermann, whose commendable last pic was “Shadow of a Doubt,” has here decided to pick on provincial life through the device of an amateur theatrical production. The various vanities of small-town notables are nicely noted, finely drawn and fairly predictable. The principals of the cast, with the exception of Richard Bohringer, seem only half-persuaded of the utility of the whole enterprise.
Gabrielle (Lio), a lissome mother of three and wife of the local doctor (Francis Huster), has been faithfully rehearsing her part as Elvire in an upcoming amateur production of Moliere’s “Don Juan.” She has been less faithful in her heart: Serge (Bohringer), the town hairdresser and ladies’ man, who has the title role in the play, has caught her eye. Neglected by her overworked husband and flattered by the advances of her smoothie co-star, she seems ready to take the plunge into adultery.
Her children, played by the son and nephews and nieces of Issermann, see the coming consummation as a disaster. They poison a pig’s-head pate that will be eaten onstage by Don Juan, but a comic mishap intervenes. Eventually the snickering of the gossipy supporting players in the play dies down, as does the alarm of the children once it’s obvious the doctor and his wife are ready for reconciliation.
Charming in its abundant use of shtick and banter by supporting actors, “God” nonetheless seems like an in-joke that’s not terribly funny. Pic’s kids, scripted as malicious, never really rise above standard-issue cuteness, and Huster, a major presence in Parisian theater, seems to be on an absent-minded holiday throughout the proceedings.
Lio, whose performance in Marion Vernoux’s directorial debut, “Nobody Loves Me,” won justifiable praise a couple of years ago, looks luminous, soulful and totally unconvincing as a somewhat uninteresting homemaker stuck in the sticks.
Doubtless there are parallels between the play-within-the-play and the goings-on in the larger story, but audiences will have been too worn down by pic’s insouciance to draw them with any pleasure.
When not lingering too long on the kids, pic looks and moves well — though Maritza Gligo’s smart costuming does not bespeak a provincial backwater — and a couple of striking dream sequences show helmer Issermann’s debt to her sideline as a rock-video maker. But the promise held out by the silliness of the title, unfortunately, is kept.