Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s C’est La Vie! luxuriates in the pleasures of life. Taking place over one evening, the two-hour production combines sharp wit, an intense plot, and an effervescent soundtrack for a winning Sunday-afternoon feature.
Jean-Pierre Bacri stars as an aging wedding planner preparing an exorbitant party for a wealthy client. Set in the grounds of an antiquated French residence, and planned with extreme excess (the waiters are dressed as valets, wigs included) by the arrogant husband, the wedding is a tough gig. But what follows is a farce of greater proportions than anyone had expected: a groom speech the length of a novel, a rogue band frontman hellbent on having his way, and a likely contender for world’s most dangerous firework display – and that’s just for starters.
For nigh-on two hours, these things just happen. American multiplex comedies tend to take great joy in the implausible (and often the impossible); but C’est La Vie! never feel forced or unrealistic. Outlandish? Maybe. But ridiculous? No. The sheer amount of imagination that’s on display in exerting the maximum possible discomfort from the wedding situation is impressive – the action never grows tiring.
As someone unaccustomed to French comedy traditions, I recognised two influences in C’est La Vie! Firstly, 2014’s Birdman; and, secondly, the works of Armando Iannucci – from The Thick of It to The Death of Stalin. The style of fast-talking, no-punchline comedic dialogue, punctuated by a neo-jazzy score, is an effective combination. It says a lot that, in a miniscule audience of fatigued critics, the laughs came thick and fast.
It’s true that C’est La Vie isn’t particularly demanding, nor does it present a likely scenario. It’s also true that the film rarely elicits heavy belly laughs. This is all part of its charm. View it as a two-hour riff, filled with witty dialogue that always maintains momentum – set-pieces ensure that tonal ups and downs are kept to a minimum.
It may not provoke intellectual debate but C’est La Vie is a warm, funny slice of life – the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. With its excellent cast, foot-tapping jazz score, and fast-paced comedy, this party never gets dull (not even during that awful speech).