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Foreign Comedy - France - Jean-Philippe French Comedy


Jean Philippe
Fabrice Luchini, Johnny Hallyday, Jean-Philippe Smet
French with optional English Subtitles
Mongrel Media 2007

Jean-Philippe is a French comedy DVD that really works because the characters do not spend most of the movie discussing the finer points of existentialism though, in this case, they could. Jean-Philippe stars an actor I cannot normally stand and usually avoid like the plague, Fabrice Luchini, and French rock legend Johnny Hallyday in a very funny alternate life story. Jean-Philippe is a great French comedy DVD because unlike most comedies from France it does not waste any time establishing the basics of the story and then tells it most economically both in terms if time and dialogue (the latter is a rarity, trust me).

Jean-Philippe is the story of Fabrice Luchini, a normal French guy played by Fabrice Luchini, who is the country's biggest Johnny Hallyday fan. This is in part because many a time in his life where he was able to overcome life's unpleasantnesses by listening to Hallyday's music. Very early on in the movie he gets his lights knocked out and wakes up in a slightly different world: his daughter has a different name, his job is slightly different and he is the butt of jokes at the office, and, most dramatically, Johnny Hallyday (played by Jean-Philippe Smet) does not exist, at all. Instead, the great French rock star is some guy called Chris Summer.  Luchini sets out to find Jean-Philippe Smet (Hallyday's real name), tell him who he really is, and convince him to become who he should have been.

This French comedy works because of the acting style balance between Luchini and Hallyday / Smet. Luchini is the over the top, pathetically sincere, resourceful fan and Smet is a disillusioned guy in his late fifties who owns a bowling alley and whose only tie to Hallyday is his popularity with young girls. Jean-Philippe also pokes a bit of fun at the mythical version of Johnny Hallyday and France's great sex symbol.

Jean-Philippe is also very smart in terms of story. There is no moment where you get the feeling the writer took the easy way out to make something plausible. Particularly clever are the scenes involving the many songs Hallyday should have written over the years that Luchini knows by heart and writes down for Smet's great comeback and the many original scenes on the road to Hallyday's overdue success. Revealing any of them would just take away from the movie but you'll have to admit this is original stuff indeed.

The movie's ending is absolutely superb, most original, appropriate, surprising, and hilarious. Even if as a general rule you hate French comedies, this one is a good bet.

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