The Closet

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Review byMatthew Turner17/05/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 84 mins

Nicely played, frequently hilarious comedy from the director of Le Diner de Cons – the perfect feel-good antidote to Star Wars fever.

It’s hardly surprising that there are no other big Hollywood films opening this week, given the monstrous audience-eating machine that is Star Wars Episode II.

At least No Man’s Land (the other film brave enough to open against Lucas’ juggernaut) has the Best Foreign Film Oscar behind it to give it a certain amount of prestige. In that light, then, The Closet takes on the feel of a sort of cinematic underdog, stepping up against the force of, well, The Force. Thankfully, it’s more than up to the task, though not quite on the level of Veber’s highly recommended previous film Le Diner de Cons.

Professional “ugly” actor Daniel Auteuil (Jean de Florette, La Veuve de Saint-Pierre) plays Francois Pignon, a boring, divorced, middle-aged man who is about to be fired from his job as an accountant in a condom factory. Desperate to keep his job, Pignon heeds the advice of his world-weary neighbour, retired corporate psychologist Belone (Michael Aumont), who suggests that they start a rumour that Pignon is a closet homosexual.

Quick as a flash, Pignon’s fake photo (complete with backless leather trousers and boyfriend) circulates round his office and, to his amazement, his life begins to improve dramatically – he gets to keep his job and everyone starts treating him differently, including his stand-offish 17 year-old son and the office bigot (Depardieu), who is persuaded to suck up to Auteuil by mischievous co-worker Thierry Lhermitte (from Le Diner de Cons).

The actors are superb and the script makes full use of their physical quirks, in particular Auteuil’s “pigeon-face”. There’s also nice support from veteran French actor Jean Rochefort as the company director, as well as Michele Laroque as Pignon’s initially bitchy co-worker. (Armelle Deutsch is also good as the scheming secretary, for reasons that are both Shallow and Obvious).

Writer / director Veber’s frequently hilarious screenplay keeps the laughs coming thick and fast as Pignon’s deception grows ever deeper. It’s also brimming with hilarious visual gags (the best of which involves a toaster and will have you snorting with unexpected laughter) and superb one-liners, such as Rochefort’s deadpan explanation to a group of visiting Japanese managers, upon finding a couple having sex on the condom factory floor: “They’re our testers…”

To sum up, The Closet is a sharply written, frequently hilarious farce with some great gags and superb performances all round. This is one closet that is worth –wait for it- looking into. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 24/08/2019 14:12

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