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  Molière The Play's The Thing
Year: 2007
Director: Laurent Tirard
Stars: Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Laura Morante, Edouard Baer, Ludivine Sagnier, Fanny Valette, Gonzague Montuel, Gilian Petrovski, Sophie-Charlotte Husson, Anne Suarez, Annelise Hesme, Luc Tremblais, Nicolas Vaude, Philippe du Janerand, Isabelle Caubère
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: The year is 1658, and the famed playwright and actor Molière (Romain Duris) has returned after a successful tour to the theatre given to him by the King a troubled man. In spite of the public loving his comedies, what he really wants to do is write profound tragedies and he makes up his mind that this is what his next project will be, much to the dismay of his troupe. However, when he goes to visit the King, the monarch is so excited about seeing another comedy from him that Molière realises it would be occupational suicide to refuse, and so sits down, quill in hand, that very night, drawing on his memories for inspiration...

Which is the cue for us to head back further in time, thirteen years back, to land the French playwright in a situation befitting one of his plays. When this was released, many took the view that it was aping the Oscar-winning hit Shakespeare in Love, what with taking a celebrated writer of the seventeenth (ish) century and constructing a romance around him with himself as leading man, and watching it you cannot be sure that is where writer and director Laurent Tirard took his inspiration, although he wasn't the first filmmaker to create a movie around this particular individual. Even the construction is similar in tone, with early comedy giving way to more serious musing over the nature of creativity.

Not to mention putting its protagonist through an amount of heartache. What Molière is recalling here as he spends a long dark night of the soul in front of his desk is a time where he was a struggling actor failing to make much headway as a tragedian, and ending up bankrupt as a result. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though, as a nobleman, Jourdain (Fabrice Luchini), pays for him to be released from a debtor's prison on the understanding that he go along with his plans to turn the wealthy but vain toff into a great thespian. We can see from the start this is an arrangement doomed to failure, as Jourdain is hopelessly lacking any talent, and believing his money will buy him what he wants.

What he actually wants is to impress a local rich widow, Célimène (Ludivine Sagnier), who he has been told by his best friend Dorante (Edouard Baer) is interested in him. Nothing could be further from the truth and the film's themes of subterfuge and fakery are brought out in the fact that Dorante actually wants Jourdain to marry his daughter to his son, thereby offering them both financial security. Of course, that's not the only manner in which these themes are exhibited, because we have Molière to contend with, or rather he has Madame Jourdain (Laura Morante) to contend with, as while we cannot see how she ended up married to such a mean-minded buffoon, we can see that Molière would find her very attractive.

If only he was not disguised as a priest, then they could find happiness - well, not really, as here lies the main problem with this film. It's supposed to be a comedy, but isn't the slightest bit funny, and much of this is down to the heaviness of the romance. Tirard puts his characters through such misery - even Jourdain gets his moment of sympathy when he finds out what Célimène really thinks of him - that what was presumably intended to be a light soufflé ends up flat as a pancake. It doesn't do the mood any benefit that when we are presented with a comic setpiece, not only is it plonked into the middle of the story with a ton weight, there's little witty about it and does not do justice to the genuine playwright's reputation. All concerned are more comfortable with the serious stuff than they are with bringing out the humour, though Sagnier might have promised more with that if she had had more screen time; otherwise this is leaden stuff. Music by Frédéric Talgorn.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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