Anyone who has ever had workmen over to remodel their home will instantly identify with “Housewarming,” a madcap, mile-a-minute French comedy starring Carole Bouquet as a liberal lawyer and single mom who hires Colombian immigrants to do the job. Pic’s good social intentions and high-spirited direction widen the appeal of this infectious, rather silly comedy, which features Hugh Grant in a surprise cameo. Helmer Brigitte Rouan (“Outremer,” “Post Coitum Animal Triste”) certainly rolls out the laughs in a breezy, ironic title with bright local box office prospects and good crossover potential to other Euro markets.
The lovely Chantal (Bouquet), who is introduced in her black counselor’s robe literally dancing around the judges, is unbeatable in court. She marches in pro-immigrant demonstrations and takes on social cases, while cheerfully running a household with two teenagers (Giulia Dussolier and Ferdinand Chesnais). Everyone is in love with her, even her ex-husband. The only thing is, her upstairs apartment needs to be joined to a downstairs apartment with a staircase.
Choosing from her immigrant contacts, Chantal hires a motley crew of Colombians lead by a mad architect to do the work. They proceed to demolish the place. Through it all, Chantal remains optimistic — until they accidentally set the building on fire. She fires them and rehires them and, surprisingly, all ends splendidly. Until the police come.
Rouan directs the unruly ensemble cast like a lion tamer, keeping the level of chaos high. Just as the film is cooling down for the end credits, the door opens and Hugh Grant shyly introduces himself as the new next-door neighbor, a happy ending if ever there was one.
Bouquet dons her best comedienne attire to carry the tale with elegant aplomb. Rest of the cast is fast-footed and outrageous. Editor Laurent Rouan gives film a merciless, non-stop pace while production designers Guy-Claude Francois and Thierry Francois have a ball wrecking their sets and rebuilding them.
Original title quotes the wise old adage, “Remodeling: You know when it starts but not when it’ll be over.”