Dad or mom: why this irreverent French comedy goes off the beaten track

To see again this Sunday on W9.

Reuniting on screen Marina Fois and Laurent Lafitte, in 2015, the comedy Mom or dad draws its identity thanks to strong intentions affirmed from the writing. Between the desire to handle more American than hexagonal references and the desire to irreverently seize on a unifying subject of society, the first film by Martin Bourboulon above all owes its originality to an addition of ambitious and iconoclastic ideas. Decryption of the recipe concocted by producer Dimitri Rassam and his duo of screenwriters Alexandre de la Patellière/Matthieu Delaporte.
By Damien Leblanc

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An inverted pitch
“They are divorcing. They will do everything to not have custody of the children”, scribes the poster of Mom or dad. Inspired by an original idea by Guillaume Clicquot de Mentque, the project is based on a catchy and irreverent pitch. The film tells the story of how a divorce that promised to be appeased at the outset escalates to the point of turning into a total war at the heart of which Florence and Vincent Leroy (Marina Foïs and Laurent Lafitte) each try to lose custody of their families. three children. The spouses will therefore imagine the worst stratagems to be hated by their offspring and thus benefit from a promotion abroad which will leave the other parent to get away from it all in France with the education of the kids. Playing on the social phenomenon of the explosion of divorces, the scenario finds a unifying angle by placing the parent-child relationship at the center of the equation. At a time when family education is the subject of many books or TV shows, Mom or Dad takes the opposite of this educational marketing by showing irresponsible parents who come to voluntarily humiliate their children and make them suffer the worst. tortures for perfectly egocentric reasons. “I liked the transgressive scenario. We have all been confronted at one time or another with family burnout. The urgency to go and fill the fridge, there is nothing less sexy”, declared Marina Foïs in First in February 2015.

A happy mix of genres

Taken in hand by the duo Alexandre de la Patellière / Matthieu Delaporte (authors of the First name), the scenario of Mom or dad takes care of every detail and brings together different registers of emotion. The first desire of the couple not to traumatize their children thus gives rise to comic sequences during which the parents do not dare to announce the news to their mouflons; but the amusing running gag above all conceals the fear that the Leroy couple feel at the idea of ​​upsetting the family balance and highlights the intimate tragedy experienced by the characters. Between vachardes valves, frenzied chases, frank explanations and hidden tenderness, Mom or dad goes through different moods, which is hardly surprising when you know that the la Patellière / Delaporte duo wrote all types of films (the SF animated with Renaissance and The Prodigies, the police comedy with The godfathers, the pure and hard thriller with The Immortal or the drama with An illustrious stranger) and perfectly masters registry changes. This balancing act is summed up in one of the first sequences of the film where the Leroy couple announces their future divorce with a smile to a couple of friends as if they were talking about the organization of a weekend. Determined to make a success of their divorce as one would make a cooked meal, the Leroys display an overplayed harmony and a frenzied self-confidence which becomes as funny as worrying. Claiming that they don’t want to “Do the rounds too much”, the couple compare themselves to a group of papy rockers of the Rolling Stones type, a comic way of underlining the part of exhaustion contained in the spectacle of the family and of already preparing, under the frantic comedy, the dark side of the characters.

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American influences

Yes Mom or dad so openly leaves the beaten track of the French comedy, it is also that his inspirations look openly on the side of the United States. The brutal confrontation between spouses evokes of course The War of the Roses, comedy by Danny DeVito in which the couple Michael Douglas / Kathleen Turner tore each other with a crash. But director Martin Bourboulon also cites the older influence of The Lady of Friday by Howard Hawks, iconic film of the “Remarriage comedy” 1940s, noble Hollywood subgenre that still offers a spirited reflection on the death (and rebirth) of a couple. Inspired by the rhythmic and verbal vivacity of these classic comedies, Mom or dad also encroaches on the more recent territory of Judd Apatow: the crisis experienced by parents caught between individual desires and family sacrifice evokes, for example 40 years user’s Guide where the existential doubts of the American filmmaker were expressed in a manner as hilarious as they were solemn. But the film’s influences aren’t limited to the comedy genre. The opening plan, located on the evening of the transition to the year 2000, thus unveils a poster of Fight Club, work released in France in November 1999 whose narration and editing have influenced a whole generation of filmmakers. David Fincher’s film, which depicts a serious identity crisis, receives here a tribute which shows a certain demand for the staging of Martin Bourboulon (a filmmaker who also came from advertising): the inaugural sequence, which takes place in real time, is as such a pure piece of bravery. The soundtrack contributes to this general dynamism by using for example the Modern Love by David Bowie, already used in 1986 by Leos Carax in a frenzied sequence of Bad blood, another French film under the influence of American cinema.

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A geographic shift

Another bias that gives character to Mom or dad : the geographical position of the plot. Refusing to anchor in the beautiful Parisian districts to prefer a modern Seine-Maritime where the main characters have executive jobs (the character of Marina Foïs is foreman while that of Laurent Lafitte is an obstetrician), Mom or dad offers more relief to the neuroses of the protagonists who may exist as such and not as simple products of a caricatural and overhanging geographical framework. Car journeys, frenzied paintball games and other teenage birthdays thus strangely gain in verisimilitude thanks to the presence of this still virgin territory from a cinematographic point of view, which the production has fun conquering and exploring.

A sassy cast

If Gilles Lellouche was initially approached alongside Marina Foïs, Laurent Lafitte finally landed the role of the husband. A rich idea since the resident of the Comédie-Française knows the actress But who killed Pamela Rose?). “What I love about him is that, like Valérie Lemercier or Chantal Lauby, he has an elegance that allows him to make the worst valves without it ever falling into the gutter, unlike me”, declares Marina Foïs in First. The alchemy between the two actors is actually quite exemplary because each brings his personal comic style to play immaturity with delight, while at times handling the necessary gravity. The duo’s total investment thus prevents the film, more sluggish and repetitive in its second part, from sinking into boredom. In the role of the sexy nurse who seduces the character of Laurent Lafitte, Vanessa Guide (seen in the short film The Bifle and in the guest report of the Grand Journal) comes to provide a Canal + guarantee, while the darker habit of the divorce judge is worn with authority by the lunar Anne Le Ny (seen in War is declared and Untouchables). He also a resident of the Comédie-Française, Michel Vuillermoz (actor accustomed to Alain Resnais and Bruno Podalydès), for his part, confers a form of bizarre perversity to his role of odious site supervisor who will however succumb to the charms of Marina Foïs . Finally, in the role of the youngest of the Leroy children, Achille Potier excels with his bewildered and jaded air, especially when he pronounces from the top of his 9 years this reply full of melancholy: “I already have a lot of things to forget”.

The trailer for Mom or dad :

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