There has been no shortage of Oedipal offspring hellbent on disrupting their parents' lives in comedies of all nationalities. Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam probably handled this tricky subject matter best in his 1986 landmark farce ABEL, pulling double duty by also playing the titular thirty-pushing tyke whose refusal to vacate the homestead wreaks all sorts of increasingly surreal havoc. A huge success in the Netherlands, it firmly established the young filmmaker's reputation through festival screenings around the world, begetting the remarkably similar if decidedly more benign French film TANGUY (2001, Etienne Chatiliez) as a direct result.
Continuing the trend, as well as an intriguing directorial career that has yet to shift into high gear, is Continental art-house cinema actress Julie Delpy with what is already her sixth full length feature, also just the second of these (after her exercise in "fantastique", THE COUNTESS) not to register as a total blab-fest. Don't get me wrong, LOLO (which bears a strong if unacknowledged resemblance to the Duplass Brothers' CYRUS from a few years prior) still has characters yakking it up at regular intervals but these streams of (often scintillating) dialogue usually propel the plot forward at almost breakneck speed, making for a most enjoyable hour and a half. What surprised me most, which may qualify as a leftover from Delpy's recent dabbling in horror cinema, was just how far into darkness the director seemed prepared to take her subject matter in its final stages.
Taking a richly deserved spa holiday in scenic Biarritz with foul-mouthed best friend Ariane (the indomitable Karin Viard in fine form) in tow, forty-something fashion editor Violette (Delpy) finds herself falling unexpectedly in love with local kind-hearted divorced IT specialist Jean-René (Dany Boon) who's already planning to relocate to Paris. Although at the top of his profession, Jean still registers as the French equivalent of a redneck to Paris natives and Violette frets about whether he'll fit in with her image-obsessed crowd.
What she doesn't realize is that the greatest threat to their newfound happiness lies closer to or more accurately inside the home : her 19-year old son Eloi, affectionately known as Lolo, an endearment he definitely doesn't deserve. Portrayed by fresh French heartthrob Vincent Lacoste who became an instant star thanks to Riad Sattouf's 2009 surprise smash LES BEAUX GOSSES (a/k/a THE FRENCH KISSERS), it's easy to see how this charming viper has managed to pull the wool over his mother's eyes for so long, but once there's a man moving in on his territory (a trend that's belatedly revealed as having started with his proper dad) the fangs come out. The pestering starts out innocently enough, the brat pouring itching powder on Jean's clothes (leading to a ridiculously thorough medical exam when Violette suspects he might have what was once euphemistically called a social disease), but soon increases to epic proportions.
This kind of character-based comedy can fall flat on its face without the right actors to carry it. Fortunately, the casting is practically flawless down to the smallest parts, such as the priceless Nicolas Wanczycki (from TV's THE RETURNED) as an unintentionally droll doctor in the hospital emergency room. Delpy can do neurotic as well as Diane Keaton, minus the mannerisms which sometimes mar the latter's artistic achievements, though another director could have conceivably prevented her from the occasional spot of overacting. Audience favorite Dany Boon (who broke all local box office records with BIENVENUE CHEZ LES CH'TIS) might seem like an odd choice to pair up with the highbrow Delpy but his work in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's underrated MICMACS A TIRE-LARIGOT already showed the actor was capable of far more subtlety than his endless string of rowdy crowd-pleasers suggested. His casting actually proves a shrewd move on Delpy's part, an insidious tactic to draw in the punters who usually stay away in droves from her movies.
Visually way more refined than your average point and shoot French farce, courtesy of the venerable Thierry Arbogast (who photographed most of Luc Besson's stuff), LOLO further ups the ante with an eclectic series of soundtrack selections. These range from Andy Williams's irresistible toe-tapper Music to Watch Girls Go By (playing over terrific animated opening credits) to Max Steiner's syrupy Theme from A Summer Place and Etta James belting out Plum Nuts over the end scroll.
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