Merci Messieurs Merchant and Ivory...
Sarah E. Zucker | Evanston, IL | 08/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw "Merci Docteur Rey" at the Cleveland International Film Festival, and it blew me away. My stomache ached from laughing so hard. If it's not a cult classic yet, I predict it will become one.
The movie follows Elizabeth Beaumont, an aging and overbearing American Opera diva who moves to Paris to reunite with her estranged son Thomas. Elizabeth has a flair for wearing garish caftans and floating around her house warbling out her sons name. Thomas is just coming to terms with his own burgeoning homosexuality, and develops a taste for personal ads and phone sex. In his efforts to see a psychiatrist (The Dr. Rey of the title), instead he meets the neurotic and definitely insane Penelope, who does the French language dubbing for Vanessa Redgrave films, and has now begun to think she IS Vanessa Redgrave. Of course, mistaken identities and plot twists ensue, and all of the crazy characters entangle and intertwine.
The two powerhouses of the film are Dianne Wiest and Jane Birkin, who each manage to steal the scene every time they walk on screen. When you see them both together towards the end of the film, it feels like your head might explode from too much funny. The role of attention-whoring older diva is certainly new to Dianne Wiest, who previously always seemed to play nice mom types, and she rises beautifully to the occasion. Jane Birkin is absolutely fabulous as Penelope, and her obsession with Vanessa Redgrave is such a brilliant metatheatrical gag (The beauty is that since this is a Merchant Ivory produced film, Vanessa Redgrave has a cameo that delivers the final punchline the audience craves).
If you are expecting typical Merchant ivory fare, this is pretty much the opposite end of the spectrum. But anyone who likes, well, laughing, happiness, or just general entertainment will not be disappointed. The humor is sort of in the vain of Absolutely Fabulous. Over-the-top women who create general mayhem around them, and even though they are completely reprehensible people, you can't help but love them. "Merci Docteur Rey" is definitely a go."
A Delightful French Farce
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though promoted as a 'Merchant Ivory Film', MERCI DOCTEUR REY is related to the team in production only. The film is written and directed by Andrew Litvack and is a well-made bit of fluff in the tried and true tradition of French Farce - mistaken identities, misconceptions that backfire then produce good things, and characters that are as off the wall as they come.
Elisabeth Beaumont (Dianne Wiest) is an aging American Opera Diva who moves to Paris to perform with an opera director of note Claude Sabrié (Bulle Ogier) for an edgy performance of 'Turandot': she also wants to be near her Parisian son Thomas (Stanislas Merhar) who just happens to be struggling with his gender identity and spends his time in the sex personals and phone ads. Thomas decides to see a psychiatrist Doctor Rey, but upon arriving at her office he mistakes one Penelope (Jane Birkin) to be the psychiatrist, not knowing that not only is Penelope wildly nutty (she thinks she is Vanessa Redgrave, having a job as the actress who provides the French dubbing for Redgrave's movies), she thinks she is responsible for Doctor Rey's dropping dead. Thomas and the newly discovered real Penelope bond and begin a 'crazy romance'.
While Elisabeth primps and prepares her Turandot she is told that Thomas is seeing a girlfriend (Linda), which in ways surprises her, as she believes Thomas to be gay. Thomas becomes involved in a response to a phone ad, goes to a 'john's' (Simon Callow) apartment where he observes voyeuristic murder involving a young man (Karim Salah). The law becomes involved and through innumerable twists and turns the 'observed' murder is manipulated in a winning way. Elisabeth debuts as an outrageous Turandot, Penelope meets Vanessa Redgrave (playing herself), Thomas discovers secrets about the identity of his father in a strange manner...etc. The result is a crazy bit of lunacy that works extremely well.
This farce can be a bumpy road if you allow your attention to stray, but plug into the manner in which it is played and the result is a showcase for some fine actors having a swell time. Yes, it is froth, but what a fine froth it is! An exhilarating comedy outing. Grady Harp, August 05"