PARIS– Alexandre de la Patelliere And Matthieu Delaporte, the scribe-helmer duo behind arthouse comedy hit “What’s In The Name” (box office France: 21 million Euros) based on their play, are back with the script of a subversive comedy, “Daddy or Mommy” whose catchy concept has lured exhibitors and distributors alike. A twist on traditional divorce-themed movies, the film stars two of France’s best-known comedians, Marina Fois and Laurent Lafitte, as a couple battling to not get custody. Produced by Dimitri Rassam and distributed by Pathe, “Daddy or Mommy” will come out on more than 500 screens across France on Feb. 4 and is playing this week as part of the Unifrance Rendez-Vous in Paris.
Variety: “Daddy or Mommy” shows two parents who are divorcing and playing the worst tricks on their kids to not get custody — it’s one of the most subversive comedies I’ve seen. Would you say that it’s a French R-rated comedy?
Alexandre de la Patelliere: “Daddy or Mommy” may not be as consensual as “What’s in The Name?” but it’s still a family comedy. Our children, who are teenagers, could be credited as co-screenwriters because they gave us great feedback throughout the writing process. We asked them to describe the worst things that we could do to them and we worked from that, and then we added a good dose of humor. Nothing we describe is really serious, no one gets hurt.
Matthieu Delaporte: We wanted to depict characters and situations that are credible, that parents or kids can relate to. The idea was to avoid falling into the absurd-comedy range from the start. We thought it was funny to show parents acting like kids and becoming irrational and teenagers being overly conservatives with respect to their parents!
How difficult was it to portray the parents who are trying to get rid of their kids as likable enough for us to empathize with them?
De la Patelliere: In fact, the film is not about them trying to get rid of their children — it’s rather a war of egos between those two people. They both want to prove each other that they’re gladly moving on without a hint of regret or resentment, when in fact they’re full of doubts.
Delaporte: Like our characters, men and women of our generation often struggle to fulfill the high expectations that society imposes for each gender: Women have to lead a successful career, take care of the children without forgetting to be loving, attractive wives while men have to be exemplary fathers, good husbands, manly and strong yet sensitive.
The sex revolution still has to be assimilated for many! In our film the two main characters are going through a burnout because they suffocate in their respective role and need to bring some playfulness back into their relationship. We follow them on that journey, as they abandon themselves completely, free themselves from the politically-correct codes of parenting to find each other again.
So “Daddy or Mommy” is a almost a social comedy, isn’t it?
De la Patelliere: We like different kinds of comedies and it was important for us to explore various ranges; so the film starts out as a fairly traditional social comedy that describes a classic situation – a divorce — with realism, and it gradually evolves into a nearly-burlesque comedy which culminates with a crazy scene. But the progression seems credible. It’s mostly inspired by situations and people we’ve met or heard of.
It’s clearly a high concept! Did you come up with the original pitch?
De la Patelliere: The film was initially developed by another writer so we had a basis to work from. And when we started writing we already had Marina Fois and Laurent Lafitte on board so we wrote with them in mind.
Delaporte: Marina and Laurent are old friends who have known each others for 18 years and have the same sense of humor so it was fun to write for them and see them act together.
“Daddy or Mommy” has a strong remake potential. Have you heard of remake offers?
De la Patelliere: We’ve had a lot of proposals on “Daddy or Mommy” and “What’s in the Name? (“Le Prenom”).” The Italian remake of “What’s In The Name,” “Il Nome Del Figlio” was co-written by Francesco Piccolo who notably wrote “Habemus Papam” and will come out soon in Italy. It’s very exciting.
Delaporte: Our play “Le Prenom,” which served as a basis for the movie, has traveled worldwide even though at first glance it looks so typically French that no one would expect it to translate well abroad. That has taught us a lesson: sometimes the most intimate, seemingly culturally-specific stories can find an echo with people in different countries.
Where do you pull your inspiration from as comedy writers?
Our references range widely in terms of periods and nationalities — there are films by Gerard Oury, Yves Robert, Judd Apatow, Billy Wilder, Frank Capra and Dino Risi for his social satires.
A lot of people we pitch “Daddy and Mommy” to have asked us if we were inspired by “The War of the Roses” but that’s not the case. In fact most of the time, we can think of movies that may not share similarities in terms of plot or concept but interest us because of the way they’re structured, written or paced. For instance, with “What’s in the Name?” we thought about “The Social Network” because it manages to be captivating by being almost entirely dialogue-centric. For “Daddy or Mommy,” we had Woody Allen films in mind when writing the marital quarrels.
Are you interested in following the footsteps of many fellow French directors and work on English-language movies?
De la Patelliere: Of course it’s an attractive prospect, especially when you look at the wonderful talent pool it would open up. But making a film in English would have to make perfect sense plot-wise, otherwise it will be too artificial.
Delaporte: So for now we’re looking to continue writing and making French films that can translate without trying too hard to make them international-driven!
What are you working on?
Delaporte: We’re working on our next film with our regular partners, Dimitri Rassam and Pathe but we can’t say anything more for now!