La rançon de la gloire [The Price of Fame] (2014)

La rançon de la gloire
Director: Xavier Beauvois
Writer: Xavier Beauvois, Etienne ComarMarie-Julie Maille
Cast: Benoît PoelvoordeRoschdy ZemSéli GmachChiara MastroianniNadine LabakiPeter CoyoteDolores ChaplinEugène ChaplinOlivier Rabourdin
Seen on: 20.6.2016

Plot:
Eddy (Benoît Poelvoorde) was just released from prison and is now staying with his best friend Osman (Roschdy Zem) and Osman’s daughter Samira (Séli Gmach). It’s not easy for Eddy to find his footing. Osman is dead-set on staying on the straight and narrow, despite big financial worries: his wife (Nadine Labaki) is ill and the hospital bills are mounting up. And then Charlie Chaplin dies and is buried not far from them. As Eddy watches the international grief, he has an idea: what if they were to hold Chaplin’s body for ransom?

La rançon de la gloire has all the makings of a dark little comedy with its unbelievable story that is actually based on true events, but unfortunately it falls almost completely flat.

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I don’t know how historically accurate the film is, but given that they didn’t even keep the names of the original bodysnatchers of the film, I’m going to assume that it’s not very accurate at all. Which is why I blame the script even more for how it handles its characters, particularly Osman. It is such an obvious attempt to make him “the sympathetic one”, it is laughable. Sick wife that he is nursing selflessly, cute daughter that he wants the best for [is there an official name for the trope of the hypercompetent (pre-)teen daughter of a single father who is basically his ideal wife minus the sex: organizes his life, can be ordered around and worships him? Because I have met her several times now], and he’s trying so hard to do everything right. He even has a code of honor that doesn’t allow him to distance himself from Eddy. It’s pretty ridiculous. Eddy is allowed a little more humanity and a little less tropey cardboard-cutoutedness, but not really substantially. Neither Zem nor Poelvoorde manage to transcend the material they have to work with – which is a lot to ask, to be fair.

But since neither Osman nor Eddy worked for me as characters and as people, the perspective of the film doesn’t work for me either. We’re supposed to go along with the two of them and their plan, while simultaneously laughing at their shenanigans and thinking the Chaplin’s butler John Crooker (Peter Coyote) the ultimate villain for trying to catch Osman and Eddy without paying the ransom [who has no problem with torturing people because that’s just what people do with criminals in movies nowadays]. This may have worked if I liked the two of them enough to want them to succeed, but even then it would have been questionable.

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Even if I didn’t want them to succeed, I might have still laughed about them. But apart from a few moments, the movie was never all that funny. There is so much comedic potential in the story, but it’s just never realized. To add insult to injury, Eddy gets a job as a clown in a circus, which feels like a completely uncalled for dig at Chaplin himself (no pun intended). “Who is the better clown?”, it seems to ask. Given the utter lack of charm of this film, my answer is clear.

The film is almost two hours long and at least half an hour of that runtime could have and should have been cut. Maybe then the film would have worked better. But I doubt that anything but a complete re-do would have saved it.

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Summarizing: Leave it.

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