Review: ‘A Spot of Bother’

A dark Gallic dramedy that's halfway between "American Beauty" and "Father of the Bride."

A dark and dyspeptic Gallic dramedy that’s halfway between “American Beauty” and “Father of the Bride,” Alfred Lot’s “A Spot of Bother” is focused less on laughs than on presenting an unnerving sense of suburban malaise. Co-adapted from Mark Haddon’s novel by star Michel Blanc, the pic presents a crumbling nuclear family headed by a hypochondriac retiree who, on the eve of his daughter’s wedding, suffers several anxiety attacks and commits a zany act of self-mutilation. Cuttingly played January release has scored a decent 400,000 local admissions, and francophone territories should bother to find theatrical spots.

Ex-architect and existentially nervous wreck Jean-Paul (Blanc) would like nothing more than to peacefully build a clubhouse beside his modernist lakeside mansion. But when a creepy rash (the “spot” of the title) appears on his waist, he begins crying cancer and starts to examine a life that, slowly but surely, he no longer finds worth living.

To complicate matters, his soft-spoken wife (Miou Miou) is having a rabid affair with his ex-colleague (Wladimir Yordanoff); his absentee son (Cyril Descours) is coming to terms with his own homosexuality; and his ever-demanding daughter (Melanie Doutey) is starting to have nuptial doubts as her big day approaches.

The plot sounds like sitcom fodder, but the characterizations are often smartly handled, and the script — which hews fairly closely to the book — takes its time in unfolding events. Things eventually culminate in a lengthy, well-orchestrated wedding sequence where everyone’s individual angst explodes, while Dad inevitably makes a fool of himself as he tries to set things right (at least for himself).

In his sophomore outing, writer-director Lot (“La Chambre des morts”) gets strong performances from the entire cast. Blanc is particularly juicy as the morbid and rowdy Jean-Paul. As Philippe, the bride-to-be’s thoughtful but dimwitted groom, Gilles Lellouche is both subtle and affecting, making for one of the only characters who isn’t thinking only about himself the entire time.

Pro tech package is topped by dutiful widescreen master shots by Jerome Almeras (“I’ve Loved You So Long”) that allow the drama to unfold without too many cuts.

A Spot of Bother

France

Production

A UGC Distribution release of a UGC YM, TF1 Films Prod. production, with participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Boulogne-Billancourt.) Produced by Yves Marmion. Executive producer, Sylvestre Guarino. Directed by Alfred Lot. Screenplay, Lot, Michel Blanc, based on the novel by Mark Haddon.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Jerome Almeras; editor, Virginie Bruant; music, Nathaliel Mechaly; production designer, Jean-Pierre Fouillet; costume designer, Magali Cohen; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Laurent Zeilig, Francis Wargnier, Dominique Gaborieau; assistant director, Stephane Moreno Carpio; casting, Brigitte Moidon, Marion Touitou. Reviewed at UGC Opera 2, Paris, Jan. 17, 2010. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Michel Blanc, Miou Miou, Melanie Doutey, Gilles Lellouche, Cyril Descours, Yannick Renier, Wladimir Yordanoff.
With: Michel Blanc, Miou Miou, Melanie Doutey, Gilles Lellouche, Cyril Descours, Yannick Renier, Wladimir Yordanoff.
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