The Closet
(Le Placard)

foreign films

The Closet (Le Placard)
Made in: France
Language: French
Director: Francis Veber
Starring: Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, Michel Aumont, Alexandra Vandernoot, Michèle Laroque
Year: 2001

Synopsis: In a nutshell, this movie is about a straight man pretending to be gay in order to keep his job. And no, this is not an account of how outgoing president Valdimir Putin will continue to function in the Russian government (in case you were wondering).

When François Pignon (Daniel Auteuil), a dull, divorced accountant working at a rubber factory, overhears a brutish member of upper management (Gérard Depardieu) mention that he's about to be fired, his new neighbor Belone (Michel Aumont) comes up with a plan.

Taking advantage of the progressive values of the modern era, Belone digitally alters some outrageously gay photographs, anonymously sends them to Pignon's company, and makes it appear as though the unassuming Pignon is an out- of-the-closet flamer.

Human resources decides not to can Pignon after all, for fear of creating PR troubles by making the company seem intolerant towards homosexuals.

Grateful in the short run, Pignon soon learns there are unintended consequences to this scheme. Rumors and whispers begin, and soon a host of characters get entangled in a humorous, PC-laden quagmire of misunderstandings and lies.

The Good: The gifted Daniel Auteuil somehow makes a boring, middle-aged loser into a fascinating and charismatic protagonist.

And the versatile Gérard Depardieu, known also for his dramatic exploits, is hilarious as an insensitive clod who may be hiding some latent issues of his own.

Equally amusing is how Francis Veber's The Closet incorporates universal workplace themes such as gossip, rumor spreading, and co-worker issues into the story. Of all the other peripheral characters depicting Pignon's office-mates, I'm sure we'd all be able to spot at least one who behaves like someone we work with in real life.

The issue of homosexuality is treated with respect, touched upon just enough, but never shoved in your face with art-house arrogance. In other words, shock value for the sake of being shocking is not found here.

But best of all is the humorous commentary on our obsession with political correctness, and how it actually makes us more, not less, judgmental of those who are different. Pignon's behavior never changes after the rumors get started. It's the perception of him that does, and suddenly he becomes the most fascinating person at the company.

The Bad: There are many peripheral characters in The Closet, and the side story concerning Gérard Depardieu's character, although amusing at first, comes close to taking the story off-focus.

Since the film also has to address other parts of Pignon's life, such as his relationship with his estranged wife and son, his boss, and his run-ins with upper management, the story does slow down a little bit after a great start.

Who would like this movie: This is definitely a foreign film for anyone who has either worked, or is currently working in cubicle hell. Daniel Auteuil is fun to watch, and even though the film takes place in France, you'll have no problem relating to the jokes and themes since they apply to issues here in the US as well.

The Closet is an amusing, light, and satisfying bit of comedy with intelligence and wit.

(3 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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