Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
DO NOT DISTURB (UNE HEURE DE TRANQUILLITÉ) | 79 min| NR
Directed by: Patrice Leconte
Starring: Christian Clavier, Carole Bouquet, Valérie Bonneton, Rossy de Palma, Stéphane De Groodt, Christian Charmetant, Sébastien Castro, Arnaud Henriet
There’s a certain sixties shellac to director Patrice Laconte’s DO NOT DISTURB. Based on Florian Zeller’s play Une Heure De Tranquillité, insular scenarios involving a man and his quest for quiet in the eye of a tornado are made grandiose in sort of sitcommy fashion. The zany, absurd comedy is a combination of Woody Allen’s neuroses and Pedro Almodovar-ian hijinks but with a decidedly French sensibility. It’s a light-hearted farce that unfortunately doubles as forgettable froth.
Poor Dr. Michel Leproux (Christian Clavier). All he wants is to play his vintage vinyl – a rare Niel Youart jazz record (“Me, Myself and I,” a title that isn’t lost on anyone in the audience) he recently unearthed at a Parisian flea market. If only his family, friends and neighbors would just leave him in peace on this beautiful Saturday afternoon. His perpetually caftan-clad wife Nathalie (Carole Bouquet) is distraught over a secret she’s been hiding for 20 years, and keeps badgering him to talk. His mistress Elsa (Valérie Bonneton) is threatening to tell Nathalie, who’s also her best friend, about their affair. Hippie son Sébastien (Sébastien Castro) is busy crusading for refugee rights, inviting them to live in his tiny studio apartment above his father’s. Plumber Leo (Arnaud Henriet) is a bumbling mess, flooding his apartment due to incompetence. Best friend Pierre (Christian Charmetant) is also expected to come over, asking for a loan. Housekeeper Maria (Rossy de Palma) has sinus issues and insists on vacuuming right when he drops the needle. All this plus downstairs neighbor Mr. Pavel (Stéphane De Groodt) is having a potluck party and needs him to bring the garlic sausages. It’s enough to make you scream “Sacre bleu” at all the hijinks and hilarity that ensue.
Clearly, there’s a lot going on and a lot of characters who constantly yell about what’s going on. While the ensemble gets their time in the spotlight, their arcs are incomplete. Nathalie, Sébastien and Elsa’s storylines are unresolved. They just sort of disappear. Granted they aren’t the protagonist, but the superfluous stuff leaves many unanswered questions: Why is Mr. Pavel still jovial and friendly with Michel after getting punched in the face by him? Does Leo even finish the plumbing job? Do the refugees ever find a place to call home? We’ll never know.
On the other hand, DO NOT DISTURB’s most attractive quality is how playwright Zellner paces the snowballing comedic antics, building to a rolling boil. It’s also fascinating how the apartment building represents Michel’s crumbling sanity. It’s a character in itself, with its busted pipes, deflated party balloons and overflowing cast of characters. Plus Leconte’s found a brilliant collaborator in Clavier, who can play all the facets of “at wits’ end” without any boundaries. There’s humorous delight in his exasperation.
Though DO NOT DISTURB won’t have much lasting effect, and viewers will crave a silent respite, it is at least somewhat enjoyable when it’s on.
3 out of 5
DO NOT DISTURB plays ColCoa on April 26. It currently has no US distribution.