Solid if rather classically corny story underperformed in Gaul, though the dudes should find takers in mostly Francophone markets.

Following “The Hearts of Men” and “French Men 2,” writer-director Marc Esposito, the undeniable king of the modern-day French bromance, offers yet another tale of brotherly love in the ex-con dramedy “My Buddy.” This time, the helmer streamlines some of the butt-and-back-slapping into a solid if rather classically corny story of a parolee who finds employment and friendship with a flamboyant magazine editor before criminal temptations resurface. With strong performances from Benoit Magimel (“Little White Lies”) and Edouard Baer (“Off and Running”), pic underperformed in Gaul, though the dudes should find takers in mostly Francophone markets.

Straight-talking, sarcastic Victor (Baer) runs a popular car mag called Auto, which, despite all the passion he puts into it, is forever on the verge of bankruptcy. When he agrees to speak at a local prison, he’s greeted by the dreamy-eyed Bruno (Magimel), a man so into cars (he’s serving time for auto theft) that he convinces Victor to hire him as a trainee in the art department, allowing for daytime parole and the possibility of a shortened jail term.

Initially things go more than well for the two, who quickly bond over Ferraris and Formula 1 glories. When Victor offers Bruno his very own Grand Prix race as a birthday gift, the latter is on the verge of tears. Nothing can separate the buds, and even their respective wives (Diane Bonnot, Leonie Simaga) become backseat drivers to a smooth ride that will inevitably get bumpy when Bruno decides to accept just one last shady gig.

Opening credits state that the movie was “inspired by a story experienced” by the director himself. Indeed, former Premiere editor Esposito helped co-found the glossy French film magazine Studio (now merged into Studio Cine Live), and his script is best when it details Victor’s difficulties in keeping Auto afloat: A scene in which the two visit an industrial printing press revels in the beauties of publishing on paper, and Victor views each page layout as a veritable work of art.

But by switching the mag’s content from movies to cars, the helmer has upped the testosterone factor to an almost risible level, which tends to hamper the underlying drama. As the pic’s uncannily false denouement (again involving fast cars) proves, when it comes to Esposito’s storytelling, it’s definitely bros before narrative credibility.

Magimel does a terrific job portraying an adolescent trapped in a jailbird’s body, and even when he’s at his most dangerous, there’s something touching about Bruno’s extremely earnest approach to life. Baer is on point as a Parisian who, despite coming from a very different world from Bruno’s, shares the same loves and is able to see beyond their obvious class differences.

Blue- and gray-toned lensing by Pascal Caubere (“Murderers”) takes advantage of the many Paris-set locations. Nonstop gushy music is unnecessary at points, and does little justice to performances that would work fine without it.

My Buddy

France

Production

A Mars Distribution release of a Les Films du Kiosque, Wayan Prods., France 2 Cinema, Mars Films, Alvy Prods. production, in association with A Plus Image 2, Cinemage 5, Cofimage 22, Soficinema 6, Uni Etoile 8, with participation of TPS Star, Canal Plus, France Televisions. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Francois Kraus, Denis Pineau-Valencienne, Marc Esposito. Directed by Marc Esposito. Screenplay, Esposito, in collaboration with Jean-Luc Levesque.

Crew

Camera (color), Pascal Caubere; editors, Benoit Alavoine, Benjamin Ambard; music, Calogero, Gioacchino; production designer, Fabienne Guillot; costume designer, Aurore Vincente; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Jean-Luc Verdier; superivising sound editors, Emmanuel Angrand, Remi Clement; re-recording mixer, Anne-Laure Francois; line producer, Claude Parnet; assistant director, Carole Amen; casting, Adele Esposito. Reviewed at UGC Cine Cite Les Halles 9, Paris, Dec 3, 2010. Running time: 104 MIN.

With

Edouard Baer, Benoit Magimel, Diane Bonnot, Leonie Simaga, Atmen Kelif, Riton Liebman, Albane Duterc, Lucie Phan, Francoise Michaud.

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