Directors: Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache
Runtime: 117 minutes
It’s not difficult to see why C’est La Vie! (2017) was chosen as the headlining film for the 2018 Alliance Française French Film Festival. With its excellent comedic timing, fantastic cast and great one-liners, C’est La Vie! has audience members in fits of laughter from beginning until end, with a few precious moments of levity and realism.
C’est La Vie! tells the story of Max Angély, a wedding planner close to retirement whose own marriage is slowly falling apart. The film begins with Max meeting with a young French couple who are trying to plan an affordable wedding, while still having their 200 person guest list and chateau facing the Eiffel Tower. Naturally, this becomes an excellent comedic scene as the poor wedding planner tries to be more ‘flexible’, while trying to reiterate that the customers are being completely unrealistic. This sets the tone for the entire film, as the customers quickly become some of the most ridiculous characters, while Max and his staff seem far more down to earth.
We follow Max as he arrives at a 17th Century French palace full of staff, ready for a high-budget wedding project that is commencing that evening. Using time updates throughout the film, the audience is brought into the world of events managing with every beautiful and ugly aspect. As soon as Max arrives on the scene, he is managing his unruly staff and putting out every possible fire you could imagine. A horrid and narcissistic groom, an abrasive second in command, a staff member hitting on the bride, food poisoning of the band, the photographer eating all the food, and off-the-books staff are just a few of the minor incidents Max has to navigate, all without letting the groom know that there are disasters afoot.
You are taken on a journey with Max as the clock slowly counts down to the conclusion of the wedding. Jean-Pierre Bacri’s portrayal of Max connects with the audience in a highly meaningful way as we watch every conceivable nightmare that could happen at a wedding take place. His own personal issues are put to the side as he deals with his staff and contemplates his retirement. With the use of documentary-style camera work in several scenes, as well as the unique jazz music to complement the rising tension of the next crisis, the audience joins Max in his desperate attempts to keep everything together.
The cast was fantastic, each with their own small storylines and reasons for being. Some of the standout storylines were between James and Adèle, whose sexual tension and abusive nature brought out some of the best comedic scenes. Pierre, the groom, also had some excellent moments as his immense arrogance and ludicrous nature made him a character you absolutely loved to hate. A scene towards the climax of the film has Pierre’s surprise dance and acrobatic performance for his bride go terribly wrong, leaving the audience dumbstruck and fearful for Max, while also in fits of laughter at the ridiculousness of the entire scene.
Crisis after crisis is met, and Max slowly begins to lose his calm as things continue to go from bad to worse. The film concludes with some very beautiful scenes as Max comes to accept his failing marriage, his love for his job and above all, his love for his staff.
Overall, while entirely in French, C’est La Vie! does not alienate an English audience, as French culture and language throughout the film is only used to its advantage, creating hilarious but soulful moments that can connect with any human, no matter where they are from.