The Dinner Game
(Le Dîner de Cons)

The Dinner Game (Le Dîner de Cons)
Made in: France
Language: French
Director: Francis Veber
Starring: Jacques Villeret, Thierry Lhermitte, Alexandra Vandernoot, Francis Huster, Daniel Prévost, Catherine Frot
Year: 1998

Synopsis: Wealthy publisher Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) and his snobbish intellectual friends play a demeaning game, the object of which is to see who can invite the most idiotic guest to their weekly dinner party.

Brochant believes he's found the perfect idiot in François Pignon, a frumpy, affable tax auditor with a talent for making scale models of famous landmarks out of nothing but matchsticks.

After sustaining a back injury, Brochant finds himself stuck at home with the talkative Pignon. From there, the evening takes an unexpected turn when Brochant's wife Christine (Alexandra Vandernoot) decides to leave him.

Distraught and wanting to win her back, Brochant finds himself reluctantly turning to his dinner idiot for help. However, simple plans go awry as the situation gradually snowballs into a series of misadventures involving Brochant's mistress (Catherine Frot), his best friend Leblanc (Francis Huster), and Pignon's fellow auditor Lucien (Daniel Prévost).

Remarks: The Dinner Game was originally a play written by Francis Veber, who also directed this film adaptation. Veber later directed the acclaimed French movie The Closet (Le Placard), and his style of comedy is certainly apparent in this one. The Dinner Game is a very entertaining, and often hilarious story that's also a substantive commentary on friendship, the lengths we go to for love, and the extreme measures we take to escape suffering.

The convoluted storyline is likely to keep you engrossed, and the plot twists are perfectly timed, unpredictable, and very funny.

The characters are very well crafted and the chemistry between the actors is great as the cast brings a strong theatrical energy into the mix. Most memorable of all is the highly expressive Jacques Villeret as the well-meaning but dense Pignon, who, despite his simple nature, is full of psychological complexities.

This is a smart, classy comedy that seems geared towards some of the very same types of intelligent people that it openly criticizes. It's a lesson in humility that never becomes preachy, and offers amusing insights about the strange bond between suffering, love, and humor.

Who would like this movie: This movie is for smart people who aren't afraid to laugh at themselves, and who understand that being smart isn't everything (and certainly no guarantee of happiness). The humor touches upon many common themes, so even if you haven't been exposed to many foreign films, The Dinner Game should definitely get a rise out of you.

(3 1/2 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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