Amild comedy of manners in which eight jobless twenty- and thirtysomethings start their own political party, “Vive la Republique!” takes an entertaining, if utterly inconclusive, stab at the bugaboo of hardcore unemployment. Scripter-helmer Eric Rochant’s modest fifth feature may lack the crowd-pleasing guffaws of a “Full Monty” but delivers steady chuckles and shows off its hip young cast to agreeable effect. Good local B.O. and an OK European theatrical showing seem likely, though other territories will have to work harder to market the idea of an even-keeled comedy about being out of a job and into politics.
While voting in a local election, divorced and jobless dad Henri (Hippolyte Girardot) takes a cue from his young daughter and resolves to found a new political party.
He enlists two unemployed buddies: Victor (Antoine Chappey), who’s about to be evicted with his wife and baby, and Emile (Atmen Kalif), who lives in a men’s shelter. The clueless trio also bring aboard babes Sabine (Aure Atika), a Ph.D. on welfare; Solange (Florence Pernel), a quirky ex-Communist living with her debt-ridden parents; and Corinne (Mathilde Seigner), an unemployed journo who’s Henri’s ex-wife. Ahmed (Roschdy Zem), a North African, helps round out the demographics.
Solange finds herself courted by Antoine (Gad Elmaleh), head of a software firm, who poses as a jobless loser, Yannick. The ploy generates laughs as he endeavors to conceal his sharp duds, pricey wheels and expense-account meals.
The party has no platform — except, perhaps, a mission on the part of certain members to get laid — but, via regular meetings, the workings of democracy, realities of capitalism and various obstacles to upward mobility are explored. Emphasis is on gentle irony and situational humor, though pic does peter out in a wimpy coda.
Making the most of a talky but well-written (if borderline didactic) script, thesps deliver convincing perfs, with special praise for Pernel and Elmaleh, as Solange and her secretly rich suitor. Lensing in slightly dreary Le Mans gets the job done, and semi-abrasive music by group FFF is used sparingly.
This unpretentious outing may regain some of the audience interest that has eluded Rochant (whose last flop was the overblown “Anna Oz”) since his smash 1989 debut, “Un monde sans pitie.”