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Annie (Géraldine Chaplin), Jean (Guy Bedos), Claude (Claude Rich), Albert (Pierre Richard) and Jeanne (Jane Fonda) have been friends for more than 40 years. So when memories let them down, heart rates quicken and their families plot their futures in retirement homes they decide to rebel and all live together. To help make their lives easier they hire a young student (Daniel Brühl), who is initially a quiet observer but is soon drawn into the group dynamic. Their new communal lifestyle provides challenges - especially when secrets stir up memories from years gone by.

Review by Louise Keller:
While The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel addresses the issue of growing old beautifully, bringing strangers together in an exotic destination, Stéphane Robelin's bitter-sweet comedy is far less successful. It's not as clunky as Late Bloomers which managed to make a mockery of journeying into old age, but Robelin offers little charm and no solutions in his story about five friends who opt to live together in their autumn years. Without doubt, the topic of ageing - with bad health and its repercussions - is a difficult one, especially if a light-hearted result is sought, but the insurmountable problem that Robelin faces is that we never warm to the characters: as a consequence there is little at stake. Getting older may be a fact of life but there is nothing in this rather forced scenario that makes us either empathise or look forward to the trip.

The film begins with 75 candles on a birthday cake, as the five old friends gather together to celebrate. But life is not without its problems: Claude (Claude Rich) is anxious since his recent heart attack and Albert (Pierre Richard), suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's, slips while walking the dog. Annie (Geraldine Chaplin) champions the idea that they all live together and look after each other, even though her husband Jean (Guy Bedos) is not so keen. Chaplin and Bedos deliver the most credible characters, but Jane Fonda is miscast and overplays her role as the doddery Albert's wife.

The discussions over red wine around the dining table in which the domestic arrangements are conceived are hardly plausible, nor is the increasing involvement of the Hungarian student Dirk (Daniel Brühl), initially employed as a dog-walker and whose role increases to include domestic duties, that of a confidant and even supplier of Viagra. Additionally, Dirk conveniently changes his thesis about Australian Aborigines to one that explores the lack of independence of the ageing in order to give him a reason to spend all his time at the house.

Secrets about health and adultery are revealed and exposed, although I was not moved profoundly by any of the revelations. Even though all the issues about self-dependence, illness and sexual desires are relevant to the age group, nothing feels real: the film plays out like a careful construct, awkwardly glued together albeit with the best intentions.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Finding an alternative to the dreaded retirement home is the basic trigger point for this film, much as it was for the fabulously successful Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But that's where similarities end. In the latter, a group of ageing English folk took to the exotica of India to escape the reminders of old age. In this French story, the group seeks refuge in a large French house. Unlike the Marigold Hotel, this house has no character (human or otherwise) with which to engage us, and the group has such minimal internal dynamic as to make them dull.

While there's nothing wrong with the cast as such, Jane Fonda doesn't fit at all as the wife of senile Albert (Pierre Richard) and none of the others has been written as real, three dimensional characters. Consequently we care little when one can't get an erection (to visit his favourite prostitute) or when another discovers secrets from the past about his friends' illicit romances.

The talented young Daniel Brühl is wasted as the young man hired to help them, putting his own romance on hold. Neither that little subplot, nor any of the meandering conversations in the screenplay have a payoff - nothing in the film is properly completed.

The film plays as if the filmmakers were attracted to the basic idea (of a group of veterans moving in together to defy their potential housing fate) but didn't know what to do with it. They certainly didn't have a clue as to how it should end, delivering an ending that is at best empty, at worst depressing and demeaning.

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(France, 2011)

Et si on vivait tour ensemble?

CAST: Jane Fonda, Guy Bedos, Daniel Brühl, Géraldine Chaplin, Claude Rich, Pierre Richard, Bernard Malaka, Camino Texeria

PRODUCER: Philippe Gompel, Aurelia Grossman, Christoph Bruncher

DIRECTOR: Stéphane Robelin

SCRIPT: Stéphane Robelin


EDITOR: Patrick Wilfert

MUSIC: Jean-Philippe Verdin

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes



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