×

Sex, Lies and Surgery

A colorful, effervescent and more-than-slightly insane French comedy, actor-director Artus de Penguern's "Sex, Lies and Surgery" pays homage to and cheerfully spoofs American medical TV dramas, from "General Hospital" to "ER."

With:
With: Artus de Penguern, Bruno Salomone, Michel Aumont, Helena Noguerra, Natacha Lindinger, Vernon Dobtcheff, Anne Depetrini, Ged Marlon, Emilie Caen, Dominique Lavanant, Renaud Rutten Sofia Essaidi, Annik Alane. (French dialogue)

A colorful, effervescent and more-than-slightly insane French comedy, actor-director Artus de Penguern’s “Sex, Lies and Surgery” pays homage to and cheerfully spoofs American medical TV dramas, from “General Hospital” to “ER.” With a farce-inspired story that includes everything from ricocheting bullets and alternative anesthesia methods to Canuck brown bears and plastic-surgery how-to handbooks, this is the kind of film where the plot keeps thickening until the gleefully cliched characters actually become affecting in their manic search for storybook happiness. Fests looking for off-kilter French fare have found their match.

Though the film is entirely in French, all the characters have English-sounding names, and the labels of medical products and signage (except for one egregious signpost in a zoo) are also in English, creating the impression of a U.S. TV series dubbed for Gallic viewers. The exact location of the “Clinic of Love” of the French title is deliberately left unclear.

Gentle but timid John Marshal (de Penguern) is the elder brother of handsome and outgoing ladies man Michael (Bruno Salomone). Both are surgeons at the family-run hospital of their ailing father, widower David (Michel Aumont), who, for reasons initially unclear, hates Stork (Vernon Dobtcheff), the head of a gigantic medical corporation trying to buy the clinic.

While Stork tries to intimidate the gullible Michael after David goes into a coma, a comely and rather naive new surgical-ward employee, Priscilla Stevens (Helena Noguerra), catches John’s eye. But before he works up the courage to make a move, she’s married Michael. Complicating things further is the arrival of a conniving nurse/dominatrix, the appropriately monikered Samantha Bitch (a hilarious, steely-eyed Natacha Lindinger).

With hospital-set series rife with stereotypical characters and cliched storylines, it takes de Penguern, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gabor Rassov and Jerome L’Hotsky, little effort to push every situation to its logical extreme, turning material that’s normally played straight into a mix of screwball comedy, farce and stone-faced absurdity. By the time the heartbroken John finds himself in self-imposed exile in Canada, where he befriends a bear after a scene that tips its hat to Chaplin’s “Gold Rush,” it feels entirely natural for John and the beast to sit down together at a campfire.

Though it might be relatively easy to milk inherently ridiculous scenes for laughs, the film stands out because, as in the work of Chaplin, the lampooning and slapstick might be unrealistic (if entertaining), but audiences are nevertheless emotionally invested in its love story — or, as is the case here, love stories.

The televised hospitalization of J.Lo-like pop sensation Jennifer Gomez (Sofia Essaidi) kicks off the pic’s dazzling finale, as Gomez is operated on twice — a life-threatening operation, then a life-giving one — in an elevator stuck between two floors, with a TV crew filming everything through the escape hatch of the elevator cage. This calamitous event leads to a series of amorous confessions for the entire cast that, while strictly following the template of a stage farce, feels genuinely deserved for the characters.

Thesping is on the money down to the smallest supporting role, and modeled on the broad acting style of soaps, with closeups of long, lingering glances and widescreen-wide smiles. Craft contributions are vibrant, with sharp editing, colorful production design and a score that, like the rest of the film, walks a fine line between homage and parody.

Popular on Variety

Sex, Lies and Surgery

Luxembourg-France-Belgium

Production: An Iris Distribution (in Luxembourg)/Rezo Films (in France) release of an Iris Prods., 2425 Films, Litswa, Iris Films, Drimage presentation and production. (International sales: Rezo World Sales, Paris.) Produced by Nicolas Steil, Thibault Gast, Matthias Weber, Jesus Gonzalez, Artus de Penguern. Directed by Artus de Penguern. Screenplay, de Penguern, Gabor Rassov, Jerome L'Hotsky.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Vincent Mathias; editor, Kako Kelber, music, Gast Waltzing; production designer, Regine Constant; costume designer, Uli Simon; sound (Dolby SRD), Philippe Kohn; associate producers, David Claikens, Alex Verbaere; assistant director, Daniel Texter; casting, Michael Laguens, Michael Bier. Reviewed at Utopolis, Luxembourg, June 28, 2012. Running time: 83 MIN.

With: With: Artus de Penguern, Bruno Salomone, Michel Aumont, Helena Noguerra, Natacha Lindinger, Vernon Dobtcheff, Anne Depetrini, Ged Marlon, Emilie Caen, Dominique Lavanant, Renaud Rutten Sofia Essaidi, Annik Alane. (French dialogue)

More Film

  • AMC TheatresShop signs, Los Angeles, America

    AMC Theatres Accused of Firing VP Who Complained of Gender Pay Gap

    A former vice president at AMC Theatres filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday, accusing the company of firing her after she complained that she was paid far less than her male peers. Tonya Mangels, who was vice president of product marketing, said that in March 2018 her supervisor inadvertently sent her a spreadsheet that included [...]

  • Sir Elton John poses for photographers

    Elton John Calls 'Lion King' Remake a 'Huge Disappointment'

    Elton John isn’t feeling the love for Disney’s latest live-action remake. In an interview with GQ U.K., the legendary musician criticized Disney’s remake of “The Lion King,” citing the film’s music as a “huge disappointment.” “The new version of The Lion King was a huge disappointment to me, because I believe they messed the music [...]

  • Fiddlin'

    Film Review: 'Fiddlin''

    Not many forms of music have “old-” actually built into their name as a prefix. So it’s a given that the practitioners of the 200-year-old genre known as “old-time music” will wear their antiquity proudly in “Fiddlin’,” a documentary set in and around the 80th annual Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va. What may not [...]

  • Jonah Hill attends the press conference

    Jonah Hill Passes on Role in 'The Batman'

    After being offered a role in “The Batman,” Jonah Hill has moved on from the project. Why exactly Hill is passing is currently unknown, and insiders tell Variety that when the news was initially reported, it was very early in the negotiations and that a deal was far from closing. The news comes after Zoe [...]

  • Daniel Kaluuya Elizabeth Moss

    SCAD Savannah Film Festival Honorees Include Daniel Kaluuya, Elisabeth Moss

    Daniel Kaluuya, Elisabeth Moss, Danielle Macdonald, Aldis Hodge, Valerie Pachner, Samantha Morton, Sienna Miller, Alan Silvestri and Olivia Wilde are set to be honored at the 22nd Annual SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Breakout Award honorees include Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jharrel Jerome, Mena Massoud and Camila Morrone. Macdonald, who appears on Netflix in “Unbelievable” and [...]

  • Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman. Alexander Skarsgard,

    Nicole Kidman, Alexander Skarsgard to Reunite for Robert Eggers' 'The Northman'

    With his latest film “The Lighthouse” set to bow this weekend, Robert Eggers’ next film has cast two leads, “Big Little Lies” alums Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård. The pic, titled “The Northman,” is described as a Viking revenge saga set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century. In talks to join Kidman [...]

  • Jessica Henwick

    'Matrix 4' Taps 'Iron Fist' Star Jessica Henwick

    Jessica Henwick is in final negotiations to star in the upcoming fourth installment of the “Matrix” franchise. She joins Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, who will be reprising their roles in the film, as well as Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who was tapped as one of the leads last week. Neil Patrick Harris also just joined [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content