Funnies and feels collide with varying success in the raucous French comedy Bye Bye, Morons. George Nash reviews.
Colourful and quirky are two words that perhaps don’t feel overly synonymous with a story about terminal illness, abandonment and suicide. But such is the look and feel of Bye Bye, Morons, writer-director Albert Dupontel’s frantic tragicomedy about an unlikely trio on a mission to track down a dying woman’s estranged child.
Arriving on a wave of awards prestige, having claimed seven gongs at France’s national film awards ceremony earlier this year—including Best Film and Best Director—Dupontel’s seventh feature is an intriguing juxtaposition of tone and subject matter. But if it makes for an enticing concoction in theory, it proves an unbalanced one in practice.
The mother in question is Suze Trappet (Virginie Efira), a hairdresser whose years of exposure to aerosols has caused irreparable damage to her respiratory system. After she’s told she hasn’t long left—although never exactly how long—she embarks on a determined search for the son she was forced to give up when she was a teenager. The pursuit initially seems futile, frequently stymied by the increasing ineptitude of the French bureaucracy. Hope soon comes, however, in an unlikely form: a not-so-dynamic duo comprising a frustrated, down-on-his-luck IT troubleshooter who wants to end it all (Dupontel himself) and a blind, cocksure archivist (a scene-stealing Nicolas Marié). Cue a series of suitably off-the-wall scenarios: a coming-of-middle-age romp complete with capitalist satire, car crashes and elevator high jinks. Cue a vibrant mash-up of Monty Python energy—the film is dedicated to the late Terry Jones and features a short cameo from Terry Gilliam—and the surrealist leanings of celebrated French auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie, Delicatessen). Cue a set of characters that, while wholly likeable, are more caricature than compelling—more cartoon than human.
But even at an impressively breezy 87 minutes, Bye Bye, Morons can’t quite evade a feeling of growing unevenness. The blend of humour and pathos lands with varying degrees of success—at its most effective during a scene in which Marié’s Serge Blin takes a romantic drive down memory lane through a neighbourhood almost entirely replaced by bland, ubiquitous high rise buildings. Its more emotionally-charged moments, meanwhile, are handled with all the subtlety and nuance of a shotgun being inadvertently fired through an office wall.
Still, it would be hard to not be moved at least a little by Dupontel’s passionately crafted slice of eccentricity. It is never quite as memorable as the movies it hopes to imitate, but Bye Bye, Morons almost always has its heart in the right place.
While neither as outlandish or as moving as it hopes to be, the warmth that emanates from this offbeat flick cannot be denied. Enjoyable if not entirely satisfying.
Bye Bye, Morons is in cinemas and exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from 23 July.
Words by George Nash
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