Dir: Etienne Chatilliez. France. 2001. 108 mins.
With more than 3.6 million admissions after eight weeks - and still going strong - Tanguy confirms director Etienne Chatiliez as one of France's surefire comedy bets, despite an unprolific output (four features in 12 years, beginning with the 1988 smash Life Is A Long Quiet River, followed by Tatie Danielle and Happiness Is In The Field). Unlike film-makers Francis Veber and Coline Serreau, who write their own scripts, Chatiliez is dependent on a writing collaborator, with who he works closely. His three previous films were written with Florence Quentin, who recently made her writing-directing debut with Gaumont's women-on-a-diet comedy, J'Ai Faim!!!. Chatiliez's new writer, at least for this outing, is Laurent Chouchan, a relatively newcomer to features who has also just made his directing debut (Vertiges De L'amour). To judge from Tanguy, Chatiliez has negotiated the new writing makeover shrewdly, even if Tanguy lacks the bite of the Quentin scripts. The film should repeat the profitable overseas performances of previous Chatiliez comedies and possibly make it onto the Hollywood retread mill, given its easily adaptable social theme.
Chatiliez's specialty is social - family-based - comedy which spirals into giddy farce. With Tanguy, Chatiliez and Chouchan take a sociological phenomenon - more and more young people are leaving the parental cocoon at a later age - fit it with a comic mainspring and then crank it up. Tanguy is the name of the hero, a brilliant young academic (Eric Berger) who specialises in Asian languages and cultures and seems poised to take a professional post in China. The only problem is that, at age 28, he still lives at home with his seemingly patient and understanding parents (Sabine Azema and Andre Dussollier) despite the fact that he earns as much as either of his folks. There's nothing Freudian about it: Tanguy is a well-adjusted young man with a healthy sexual appetite (he brings his many bemused conquests home and introduces them to his folks at the breakfast table). It's just he simply enjoys the convenience of not having to deal with such time-consuming banalities as cooking and house-cleaning. And he thinks his parents still love having him at home.
Well, not any more. When Azema and Dussollier take stock of their home life, they realise they are both on the verge of a nervous breakdown - so they declare domestic guerilla war on Tanguy, determined to make domestic life so miserable that he will only be happy to move out. But even when they agree to buy a flat for their son and celebrate their independence, Tanguy has an anxiety fit and has to be hospitalised. Relations go from bad to worse, climaxing in a law suit in which Tanguy successfully sues his folks for parental abandonment.
Although generally well-received critically in France, there has been some carping about Chatiliez's overly benevolent handling of a theme with darker implications. But Chatiliez is not a virulent social satirist and the film's ironic final pirouette, rather than being a cop-out, is a perfectly apt and gently ironic: Tanguy finally goes to China, marries a local girl and recreates his family cocoon with his new in-laws.
In their sixth screen appearance as a married couple, Azema and Dussollier alone are worth the price of admission as a mum and dad going ballistic while their comfortable little domestic unit implodes. Relative newcomer Berger is appropriately charming and unbearable as Tanguy, while Helene Duc adds a tart outsider's point of view as Tanguy's wordly-wise grandmother.
Prod cos: Telema, Films du Champ Poirier, TF1 Films Production
Fr dist: UFD
Int'l sales: TF1 International
Exec prod: Charles Gassot
Prod: Jacques Hinstin
Scr: Chatilliez and Laurent Chouchan from an original story idea by Yolande Zauberman
Cinematography: Philippe Welt
Prod des: Stephane Makedonsky
Ed: Catherine Renault
Music: Pascal Andreacchi
Main cast: Sabine Azema, Andre Dussollier, Eric Berger, Helene Duc