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MOVIE REVIEW: The Father of my Children

A French movie that sounds interesting--but it's not

The Father of My Children: Rates a D.
Courtesy photo

The opening sequence of this movie is perhaps my favorite thing in years. No, not because it’s great cinema. This is a French movie, and most of the French films I see are bad. This one is no exception.

It’s what happens in the opening 10 minutes.

A movie producer is in his car, talking on the cell phone. Another call comes in, on a different cell phone. He takes that, and is on two calls at once. Oh, and he’s also smoking a cigarette. None of that is done for

comedic reasons. He’s a busy man, who…we find out later…has many reasons for being on the phone often.

The cops pull him over for speeding. This guy has a crumbling business and has a lot on his mind. But guess what? He drives perfectly (well, aside from that speeding). He even waved a pedestrian by while he’s at a stop sign.

You see, it is possible to drive and talk on the phone at the same time.

Now, off my soapbox about stupid cell phone laws, and back to writer/director Mia Hansen-Love’s lame movie.

What bothers me so much is there are elements here that are great; phone conversations with distributors, angry directors and film developing companies. A lot happens behind the scenes of a film company that can be interesting. I wanted to point out the irony of the premise that selling smaller, independent films can be so tough; hence they turn out like this, you can see why this Blue Moon company is so far in the red.

At almost two hours, there were scenes that got a bit boring. At one point, my mind drifted to a guy named Surat from my high school basketball team. He used to bring a notebook to movies and count the amount of deaths in each film. I remember Terminator coming out and asking him at practice how many deaths it had. His eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas. He had to guess in that movie, because some scenes had so many bodies all over the place he didn’t have time to count them before the next scene (or had to estimate how many people were in a building that exploded).

I thought about Surat because, every character in this movie lit up a cigarette. I wished I had started a tally of how many cigarettes were smoked, because I’m guessing it was near 100.

And believe me, that aspect of the movie is more interesting than what you actually see on screen.

Here’s a protagonist that’s fun to watch. He’s good looking, knows what he wants, can be a doting dad (even if the cell phone does come out during the child play in the living room)…but the movie never goes in any direction that’s all that interesting.

It deals with suicide, illegitimate kids and egomaniacal actors. Nothing is over the top, which is a pleasant surprise. That all sounds interesting, but in this movie, it’s really not.

An example of a scene I appreciated involves a director named Stig. We hear about him smashing equipment, going over budget, and throwing tantrums. When we finally see him late in the movie and he’s trying to talk to Russians that might invest in a film, he’s very civil and makes a few good points. I like the fact that that’s more realistic than a director pulling a Christian Bale and screaming at everyone, or shown smashing a camera when something goes wrong. The problem is, those things are probably more enjoyable to watch.

It’s a shame some of the other characters couldn’t have been as fleshed out as the movie producer. His wife seems interesting, the kids are all adorable, and there’s even a young filmmaker that pops in and out of the story we’d like to know more about.

This movie gets a D.

Don’t let your film school buddies talk you into it.