Elie Chouraqui offers a deft mix of comedy and melancholy with the help of a strong ensemble cast in “Les Marmottes,” a lightweight but likable opus about an eventful Christmas ski vacation. Pic covers familiar territory well enough to ensure some offshore exposure.
The “Marmottes” of the title are friends, relatives and couples who enjoy an annual yuletide get-together in Chamonix. But they spend little time on the slopes and devote most of their energies to affairs of the heart.
Leo (Daniel Gelin), the widowed gray eminence of the group, chooses the occasion to announce his marriage to longtime companion Francoise (Anouk Aimee) — much to the discomfort of Max (Gerard Lanvin), his middle-aged son, whose marriage to Marie-Claire (Christine Boisson) is crumbling. Simon (Andre Dussollier), Max’s brother, seems to enjoy a much better time of it with his wife, Frederique (Jacqueline Bisset), but still sneaks his mistress along for the holiday.
Meanwhile, family friend Stephane (Jean-Hugues Anglade) is repeatedly guilt-tripped by his suicidal girlfriend, Lucie (Marie Trintignant), who wants him to make a commitment.
Other subplots include a rocky romance between Simon’s twentysomething son and Max’s teenage daughter, and Max’s infatuation with a resort employee.
Chouraqui would have done better to make it easier (and faster) for an audience to understand who’s related by birth or marriage, and who’s just a good friend. It says much about the charm of the characters and the actors playing them that, even as one scrambles to figure out the interconnections, the occasional confusion is at worst a minor distraction.
Dussollier and Bisset are standouts in the large cast, in large part because they have the meatiest roles and the most affecting dramatic moments. Anglade and Lanvin also make solid impressions.
Tech credits, including Robert Alazraki’s attractive lensing of the wintry Chamonix climes, are first-rate.