Think Shakespeare In Love but in French and you’ll broadly get the feel of this romcom historical romp. Like Shakespeare himself, Moliere was a dramatist/player, although early on in his career he specialised in the kind of farce the French find hysterical but Brits feel lacks sophistication.
In 1644 Moliere (Roman Duris) was just twenty-two years old yet saddled with debt and so (if we are to believe this movie) he left for the country, disguised as a priest, to help the buffoonish and wealthy Monsieur Jourdain (Fabrice Luchini) rehearse his one-man play. While Jourdain wants to use the play to seduce a young widow, his devout wife Elmire (Laura Morante) increasingly finds herself attracted to Moliere. Add to this a wayward daughter conducting her own illicit love affair and you get farce with a capital F.
Although the film looks stunningly handsome and does contain some very funny episodes, the two hour running time means scenes are left to meander to a conclusion rather than promptly exit stage left before they run out of steam. Where Shakespeare In Love galloped along, propelled by an inherent sense of fun and exuberance, Moliere is a far more staid affair. It doesn’t help that Duris is completely upstaged by Fabrice Luchini who steals the limelight at every opportunity. To be fair, it’s not that he’s being selfish, it’s just Monsieur Jourdain is such a monster of ego and conceit he’s a far more interesting character than Moliere, the erstwhile ‘star’.
So, this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if a diet of wham bam blow ‘em up summer blockbusters is proving too much for your palate, this could prove just the light appetiser you need. Pixie Santos