Yvan Attal delivers a vitriolic comedy about the couple. Opinions are divided.
In theaters October 30, 2019, My Stupid Dog arrives on television this Sunday on France 2. When it was released, it had divided the editorial staff. Here are our conflicting opinions, before you can make your own, at the end of the weekend…
“It was all the fault of my four children who have this almost magical gift of screwing up all my attempts to find happiness. From the opening monologue, the tone is set. Bad faith and cynicism are the two engines of the main character, Henry, a fifties in crisis, as uninspired in his work as a novelist as in his marriage. He offers himself a lifeline in the person of a horrible dog, as embarrassing as it is ill-mannered. Between the presentation of the family with dynamite and the excesses of the priapic mastiff, the film gets off to a flying start. Yvan Attal returns to comedy. He excels, moreover, in the role of a somewhat cowardly type. Playing with truth and falsehood, he has fun projecting the image of the couple he forms with Charlotte Gainsbourg into the spectator’s unconscious. As for My wife is an actress and They got married and had many children, of which this film can be read as the third episode, it plays the double game of an autobiographical fiction. Add to that that Ben Attal (the couple’s son) is also the eldest son and is as good an actor as his parents. He joins a sibling of very singular young actors like Panayotis Pascot whom we discover – after his sketches in the “Petit Journal” – formidable as an arrogant cadet and surfer. Gradually, the tone of the film will slide towards melancholy. As the house is emptied of its children, Attal unveils a harsh film about the passage of time. My Stupid Dog is not a John Fante like the others. Work of old age of the novelist, it is less acrid than the saga of Bandini. Yvan Attal, if he has modernized it, has made the subject more universal and reveals a vitriolic comedy about the couple and the family. By appropriating Fante’s work in his own way, he signs one of his most personal and touching films.
To think that his life as a couple in the city with Charlotte Gainsbourg has enough interest to deserve a trilogy on the screen is already a mystery in itself, but to use so clumsily the work of John Fante to achieve his ends puts suddenly all the light on the rudeness of the company. Yvan Attal is therefore Henri, whom a voice-over (a process that has become an imposed figure for lazy filmmakers) describes to us in complete loss: lack of inspiration (hold on!), libido at half mast, young offspring therefore cumbersome and a bit stupid.. Fortunately, the setting of a bourgeois house on the Basque Coast that smells full of the Airbnb special French cinema (make the place as clean as you found it when you arrived) lightens the picture a bit. Within it everything is artificial, the dialogues (recited), the characters (stereotyped), the situations (telephoned), the staging (illustrative) or even the dog (accessory). So there remains the essential: Yvan Attal gorged with himself, who plays the cynical on the cheap, smokes a cigar, drives a vintage Porsche, asks the bobonne to heat up the gratin, throws in homophobic thoughts, makes fun of people who don’t look like him (the necessarily fascist soldier, the inevitably stupid stripper…), without censoring themselves too much (it’s Fante, ok?). It is clear that the filmmaker would like to see himself as Cassavetes seducing his Rowlands, witness this embarrassing scene on the sofa where the vapors of a joint allow a couple’s complicity that has become unprecedented. And then, once everyone has played their little part and allowed the hero to find himself alone with his inspiration finally found, a narrative knitting will place him on the pedestal that he ultimately never left. He didn’t need to move. The others will have to apologize for doing so. We are impatiently awaiting the adventures of Yvan and Charlotte near Swann.