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Laramie Movie Scope:
A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noël)

Spend Christmas with loud, obnoxious and unfunny people

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 31, 2009 -- This is not your typical Christmas movie, since the crazies outnumber the sane people in the highly dysfunctional Vuillard family. If your idea of fun is to spend Christmas with loud, obnoxious, abrasive, cynical people, then this movie is for you. This movie was just the cup of tea desired by many critics, since it received very good reviews from a lot of them. Why? It is a mystery, like all the critical gushing over “WALL·E,” “Man on Wire,” “Wendy and Lucy” and “The Dark Knight.” Oh well, if we all thought alike, we'd only need one critic.

The family Vuillard gathers for Christmas in Roubaix under a cloud of bad news about the family matriarch, the icy cold Junon (Catherine Deneuve), who has cancer. Her only hope is to get a bone marrow transplant. Doctors tell her that her highly unusual blood type and genetic makeup will make finding a donor impossible. However, it turns out that her black sheep son, Henri (Mathieu Amalric) is a donor match, as is her grandson, Paul (Emile Berling) who is considered crazy, although he acts more normal than most of the rest of the family. French doctors must be totally incompetent if that is their idea of an impossible donor match.

Since Paul's mother, Elizabeth (Anne Consigny) hates her brother, the abrasive and obnoxious Henri, she insists that Paul be the donor, even though there are risks to the procedure. Now that's a strange family when a mother would risk the life of her son just to spite her brother. In fact, Elizabeth hates Henri so much, she arranged to have him banished from contact with her family for six years. Elizabeth, a total head case, is the funniest character in the movie, perhaps unintentionally so. She just can't seem to figure out what is pretty obvious to everyone else, that her raging hatred is making her unhappy, duh. Sure Henri is an obnoxious jerk, all the more reason not to waste so much precious time, effort and emotional capital thinking about him, hating him and trying to hurt him. He's not worth it.

One of Henri's brothers, Ivan, is married to the beautiful Sylvia (played by Chiara Mastroianni, who is Catherine Deneuve's real daughter). It turns out she had sex with Henri at one time, and was also in love with Ivan's cousin, Simon (Laurent Capelluto) before she married Ivan. When Sylvia finds out that Henri and Simon decided amongst themselves who would marry her years before, she gets angry and has sex with Simon, thinking to herself “How dare they decide! Don't they know this is all about me, me, me!”

Ivan sees his wife and Simon (who has been carrying a torch for Sylvia for years) naked in bed together on Christmas, but doesn't seem to mind at all. He acts like this is normal! What a zoo! Ducks have more sense than that! If this makes any sense to you, you must be French. One thing about this film. The characters are so nutty that you never know what they will do next. They certainly don't do what they say they will do. That fact alone kept me interested. This film rates a B. In French, with English subtitles. The subtitles don't help much. It absolutely has to make more sense if you actually speak French, or better yet, if you actually are French.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2009 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)