Judge Elizabeth Skipper like to listen to people speaking French. Which is why she was so shocked to find out what "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?" really meant.
"You're such a rarity. I thought you were dead."
Literally translated from French, the title of this movie really ought to be How I Killed My Father, but that might make it sound like something actually happened in the movie.
Facts of the Case
Jean-Luc has just received a letter informing him that his father died a month ago when dad shows up on his doorstep. And from that moment on, the old man causes nothing but trouble. He questions Jean-Luc's chosen field of medicine, gerontology. He causes tension between Jean-Luc and his brother, Patrick. He reveals that he has no money to retire and asks to borrow a large sum to pay off a debt. He even flirts with Jean-Luc's wife, Isa.
In fact, he causes so much trouble that one begins to wonder if Jean-Luc might be sorry the old man isn't dead after all.
Does this sound to you like "a gripping psychological minefield" (Ian Stuart, Newsday) or "a chilly masterpiece" (Stephen Holden, The New York Times) or even "an icily elegant psychological drama" (Leah Rosen, People Magazine)? Because, believe me, it isn't any of those things, despite the prominence of the quotes on the DVD case. Yet a quick perusal of Rotten Tomatoes reveals that these quotes are not anomalies: With a very few exceptions, it appears everyone has drunk the Kool-aid and thinks My Father and I is the best thing since Hitchcock.
I just don't see it. Even with the surprise ending, I didn't find anything but an interminable film without any semblance of a plot. Nothing much happened, and when I got to the end, I realized that the few plot points there were served no purpose. How can a movie be "gripping" and "a minefield" when nothing happens and it doesn't go anywhere? I guess those other reviewers are right about one thing: My Father and I is definitely "chilly," but that's just because it's DOA and the body is cold.
Even the trailers for the film are confused. Both the English and French versions portray a fast-paced, event-filled roller-coaster ride, but then that's easy to do when you don't show any dialogue. Any scene can look like a thriller if you take away the words and add screeching staccato violins in its place. I wish they had done the same to the whole movie—at least then my adrenaline would have kicked in and made me feel anything other than pure boredom.
Alas, no, My Father and I is dull all the way through its one hundred excruciating minutes. Fortunately, it is made slightly (only very slightly) better by its cast, who are mostly pretty people who seem to be able to show realistic emotion…though, frankly, it's not that easy to tell in another language. But even if they can't act, they're nice to look at and listening to French is always a pleasant experience. If you can't guess, I'm grasping at straws here—nice-looking actors and a pleasant accent is the kindest thing I can find to say about this film. You do the math.
Accompanying this lackluster movie are some equally lackluster transfers. The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture is anything but crisp with bland colors and blacks that rightfully ought to be called grays. Other than a few specks of dirt, though, no significant transfer errors occur. As well, the Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is pretty dull itself. The dialogue is audible (the better to hear those pleasing accents), but the audio transfer does nothing for the music and ambient sounds, which only served to contribute to the monotony.
Finally, the bonus features. I've already mentioned the theatrical trailers. Also included are three interviews with the actors who portray Jean-Luc, Isa, and Patrick. They are—you guessed it—dull, dull, and dull. I heard nothing that didn't go in one ear and out the other.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I've already used up the only nice thing I could find to say about My
Father and I, so I will leave some blank space for you to fill in a quote
from one of the myriad reviewers who inexplicably adored this film…
If you gave even a cursory glance to this review, I'm sure you know that I wouldn't recommend this movie if they paid me. After all, I have my reputation as a lone dissenter to protect. Therefore, in the spirit of Kangaroo Jack before this, I will state without equivocation that everyone else is wrong and My Father and I is pretentious, pointless pap. Avoid it at all costs.
My Father and I is found guilty of being French (that is a crime now, isn't it?) and is sentenced to a lifetime in Gitmo without trial.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Yorker Films
• Interview with Actors Charles Berling, Natacha Régnier, and Stéphane Guillon
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