I consider myself a bit of a student of comedy, mainly because it is a genre of entertainment that has many forms, and some truly innovative things have been created in the name of comedy. However, I sometimes grow weary of the mainstream Hollywood comedy, and while many of them are great, I sometimes just think they are repetitive in theme and storyline, and ultimately predictable. I always enjoy discovering foreign comedy films, because it is always interesting to see what other countries find funny, and what they create when they try and make a comedy. One recent example of a foreign comedy film I adored was Serial (Bad) Weddings, a French comedy that is one of the most delightful and outrageous pieces of cinematic comedy I’ve seen in a while.
The film follows the story of a conservative Catholic couple in France – Claude Verneuil (Christian Clavier) is an uptight notary, and his wife Marie (Chantal Lauby), a devoted housewife who is used to the high life. They have four daughters – Isabelle (Frédérique Bel), Odile (Julia Piaton), Ségolène (Émilie Caen) and Laure (Élodie Fontan), who they love unconditionally, even if they fall in love with men that are far from their parents’ ideal men – Isabelle marries Rashid Ben Assem (Medi Sadoun), an Algerian Muslim lawyer, Odile marries David Benichou (Ary Abittan), a Jewish businessman and Ségolène marries Chao Ling (Frédéric Chau), a Chinese banker. All of which are incredibly successful and intelligent men with great careers, and who treat their wives with extraordinary respect and wonderful love – they would be the perfect son-in-laws, if it wasn’t for the fact that they are non-white and non-Catholic.
Laure is not married yet, and seems to be her parents’ last hope for her marrying a man that fits their conservative Catholic standards – and to their delight, she announces that she is indeed marrying a Catholic – but to her parents’ chagrin, it is Charles Koffi (Noom Diawara), an actor from the Ivory Coast who has falled madly in love with Laure. In order to prove how open-minded they are, Claude and Marie are forced to accept their daughter’s less-than-ideal choice in men, and face the fact that they are not going to get the son-in-law that matches their standards. Everything is complicated when Charles’ parents come to France from the Ivory Coast, and Claude and Marie are shocked to discover that the same sense of distrust also exists in Charles’ family, and everyone soon discovers that things aren’t always that different. Charles’ father, André (Pascal Nzonzi) believes that his son should marry a black African woman, rather than a white European girl, which proves that Claude isn’t so alone in the believe, and that the game is played from both sides. Of course, this film has a very happy ending, where everyone sorts out their problems, overcomes their differences and lives happily ever after, being suitably awakened to other ideas, living as a big, happy family (and of course, it has the cliched wedding dance scene, which I found a little too taut and obvious of an ending to this film)
Racism is a topic that isn’t really shown in comedy films properly – other than the occasional offensive blackface or yellowface jokes that still exist in some mainstream comedy films today, racism is always looked on as a very serious subject – and it certainly is. Very rarely has a comedy film shown the idea of contemporary racism as its main subject matter, which is exactly what makes Serial (Bad) Weddings such an outrageous film – it explores the concept of racism as something that still exists to this day, and even if someone does not have an inherent, obvious hatred of other races, many people do still have a distrust of other races, and want their families to reflect their own beliefs in their racial superiority. I doubt this film will change hearts and minds, because racism does still exist in much more vicious forms than it does in Serial (Bad) Weddings, but it is important not to overthink this film and see it as a public service announcement against racism, but rather to see it as a hilarious and outrageous social comedy that sometimes goes places that many other mainstream comedies would not ever dare to go. For the simple reason that it pushes the boundaries of what a comedy can show proves that Serial (Bad) Weddings is a unique film and one that is definitely worth watching.
The performances in Serial (Bad) Weddings are absolutely wonderful – Christian Clavier gives a tour-de-force performance as Claude, and playing the character as a stuffy bourgeois notary who tries to hide his hidden racism behind the seemingly solid excuse that he is a Gaullist, he gives one of the funniest performances in a comedy film from the past few year. The four men playing the son-in-laws are also wonderful, each having their own moments to shine and contribute to the hilarity of the film. Each has their own smaller storyline, and the film makes sure to characterize them well enough to not be the simple stereotypes that Claude and Marie seem them as. The three oldest daughters are given very little to do, and with only one or two funny moments, they don’t do very much other than just being present in the film. However, Élodie Fontan is wonderful as the youngest daughter, and is given a lot to work with. Pascal Nzonzi is a scene-stealer and is responsible for some of the funniest moments in this film. The cast as a whole is solid, and I truly think it is some of the strongest ensemble work in years.
Serial (Bad) Weddings is a great film – hilarious, outrageous and socially relevant, it is unrelenting and very well-made. It is shockingly accurate to the current social climate, and I think it deserves to be seen far more than it has. It is a strange film, as it doesn’t only appeal to the country of its origin, but is far more global – this film can speak to every one of us, as it shows that globalization will bring about an increase in open-mindedness, and that we should look beyond superficial differences. Serial (Bad) Weddings is definitely an extraordinarily entertaining film, and it was well-constructed and very unique. I highly suggest seeking it out, because it is unlike anything you’ll see in a comedy.