My friend – who is French, and so knows about these things – tells me a good French comedy needs two things: whimsy and depression.
With a title like BYE BYE, MORONS (‘Adieu les cons’ is the French title), I know we’re off to a great start.
Suze Trappet (Virginia Efira) is a beautiful and successful hairdresser, with her whole life ahead of her. Unfortunately, that life is about four weeks. Her hairspray habit is killing her, her lungs are destroyed, and she’s coughing up blood.
An aside: The blood coughing is bizarrely elegant? I should be horrified, but instead I’m just going, ‘ooh, what a pretty shade of red’. Like I said: whimsy and depression.
So, pissed off at her impending doom, she decides to track down her son. Pregnant at 15, sporting frankly amazing hair, her parents made her give him up for adoption. Finding him won’t be easy, because French bureaucracy is famously slow – river of molasses slow – and she hasn’t got a lot of time.
It’s frustrating, and it’s deeply funny. It’s peak French comedy, and horribly familiar to anyone who’s dealt with Centrelink.
Meanwhile, depressed public servant Jean-Baptiste Cuchas (played Albert Dupontel, who is also the writer and director) decides to kill himself. But the plan backfires in a very literal way, and now he’s on the run from the police. Suze convinces (blackmails) him into helping her find her son.
The final addition to this accidental trio is Serge Blin (Nicolas Marié). They find him rotting away in The Archives. He does a lot of lurching around and breaking things, because he’s blind, and slapstick is kind of a staple of French comedy. Enthusiastic for basically anything, he jumps right into the quest.
The film’s madcap plot lies somewhere between a detective story and a crime spree. Sure, you want to see the trio succeed. You’re not a complete monster. But honestly, you’re here to see what happens on the way, aren’t you? The whimsy of following clues, solving mysteries. The depression of knowing your main character doesn’t have all the time in the world. The goddamn drama that creates.
This story has cops, psychiatrists, car chases, computer hacking, bad poetry, and some incredibly poignant scenes about working yourself to death…
But among all this chaos, this film is just incredibly beautiful to watch. There’s so much colour, it’s such a celebration of life and human connection. Everything Suze touches is red and gold, representing her (I’m just gonna say it) joie de vivre (I’m sorry). Even her bloody tissue is picturesque. Everywhere she goes is florals, youthful adventure, and summer sunlight shining through windows.
Poor Jean-Baptiste, he’s living a half life, blue in the glow of his computer screen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very useful computer. But the blue life is lonely, controlled.
The symbolism is definitely not subtle, but it is effective. And it all works, somehow. The end result is whimsical and glorious, rather than grating. And at the same time, it’s got those (incredibly French) depressing moments, that stay with you long after you finish watching.
I think it’s the genuineness of the film that really shines through. It’ll make you laugh out loud, and it’ll break your heart.
I give it 7/10.
See BYE BYE MORONS at the Alliance Française French Film Festival Returning to Palace Cinemas and Luna Palace Cinemas for its fabulous 32nd incarnation,, will beguile and engage audiences from March 10 until April 17.