This isn't something you'd want to check out for some Christmas cheer, but if your into dysfunctional dynamics then you might enjoy it. I would have to watch it a second time, not sure what I think of it, my initial perceptions may change on a second viewing.
It’s Christmastime in Paris and at the home of the wealthy Vuillard family the clan is gathering with enough emotional baggage in tow to satisfy a convention of neurotics. Youngest son Ivan, still suffering from the effects of a teenage breakdown, is hiding an explosive marital secret from his trusting wife. Middle son Henri, a penniless grifter given to bouts of drunken lambasting, arrives with his latest girlfriend, a foreign beauty with an uncanny ability to cut through other people’s bullshit. And eldest daughter Elizabeth, with her occasionally present husband and suicidal son, is a veritable ball of conflicting angsts who once tried to banish Henri from the family altogether due to some unspoken faux pas on his part. Heading the family table are patriarch Abel, huffing and mugging like a congenial toad; and matriarch Junon (Catherine Deneuve resting on her star power) an ice-cold Medea with an ulterior motive behind her smiles and kisses—-she needs a bone marrow donor in order to combat a fatal blood disorder. And casting a shadow over everyone is the memory of eldest son Joseph whose childhood death still gives rise to thinly veiled recriminations. As the family arms themselves for the holidays reputations will be assassinated (again), accusations will fly, and angry skeletons will roam freely while Abel croaks out genteel non-sequiturs and Junon uses her cancer diagnosis as an excuse to be a bitch about everything. Arnaud Desplechin’s thoroughly unlikable dysfunctional family drama features awful people saying and doing awful things to each other for no readily apparent reason. With an overly large cast of characters vying for screen time the separate story lines soon become hopelessly entangled while one face blurs into another. He does try to impose some deeper meaning to his jumbled mess through the ironic use of Christmas music (both classical and contemporary) as well as a few glaringly obvious references to Shakespeare and the Bible…at one point the wee grandkids stage a play about a despotic knight who gets his comeuppance. The overall effect however is more patronizing than illuminating and with a 2½-hour running time all that nastiness and unresolved grief becomes really tedious really fast. Henri’s personal credo: “Don’t act beyond your capacity to repair” could, in this case, be just as easily applied to moviemaking. As an aside, the medical scenes do carry a certain clinical authenticity with actual hospital staff playing themselves.
English title: A Christmas Tale. I don't understand the dislike for this movie I've seen here and on IMDB. As many have pointed out, it has a number of similarities to Wes Anderson's "The Royal Tenenbaums" (another film that I think is great): a sick patriarch (matriarch in this case), a dysfunctional family brought back together, playful visuals, references to other films & books, an eclectic soundtrack and endearingly screwed up characters. For those who think this is overly somber, I recently watched Bergman's "Autumn Sonata" and this is a far more nuanced and sardonic (though still moving) handling of family drama. The whole cast is excellent, but it is anchored by the regal Catherine Denueve (the Lioness in Winter) and Arnaud regular Mathieu Amarlic, who plays the black sheep brother. I loved it and thought that it soared by, despite its long running time. Bravo.
Desplechin has a reputation that he hasn't earned. This is a flimsy story, full of improbabilities that does not convince. Why does Amalric's sister hate him so violently, to the point of asking their parents to cut him out of the family? What part do the other characters play in the family drama--this was not fleshed out satisfactorily. Amalric and Deneuve are effective.
love this movie! think royal tennanbaums but emotionally gritty and a little more true to familial dysfunctional life. ultimately redeeming.
The film contain many layers in need of exploration.
It put me to sleep therefore I cannot fairly comment.
Fair - A Christmas Tale (2008) [Foreign - French] 152 min. This is not the typical Christmas-themed film. It's revolves around a family Christmas reunion which is overshadowed by the news that the matriarch of the family played by Catherine Deneuve has a rare form of cancer and requires an aggressive form of treatment for any chance of survival. Though the performances are excellent, the story doesn't take on a life to allow us to keep watching for little over 2.5 hours. It misses a comedic touch by French Canadian director Denys Arcand to make it less sombre. Some of the motivations for the hatreds from one family member to the other is not completely clear which lessened the effects of the story of a dying woman. This may need a further viewing but at this length, it'll be hard to find the time.
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