Year Released: 2004
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 91 minutes
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The ghastly Paris-based comedy “Merci Docteur Rey” follows a 23-year-old gay phone sex addict (Stanislas Merhar) who accepts a rentboy assignment to hide in the closet of a middle-aged man and watch his liaison with a young hustler. However, the hustler turns homicidal and fatally stabs the older man. The young voyeur later gets an icky shock from his overbearing mother, an American opera diva (Dianne Wiest, doing a half-hearted parody of her Oscar-winning “Bullets Over Broadway” character). It seems the young man’s supposedly dead father was not dead – he was alive and well and living in Paris. No, daddy was not Jacques Brel – he was the older gay guy murdered by his rough trade hire.
The voyeur somehow crosses paths with a neurotic actress (Jane Birkin) who thinks she killed her psychiatrist. The shrink actually died of a heart attack, but it is not hard to imagine that boredom with this film was the cause of death. The actress has delusional notions that she is Vanessa Redgrave, but when she meets the real Vanessa Redgrave the nutty thespian runs off to vomit in a bathroom sink.
There is also a bowl of marijuana brownies, a champagne-slurping Jerry Hall (yes, the ex-Mrs. Mick Jagger), some dumb detectives with strangely American accents, a jokey reference to Brian DePalma and a severely truncated version of “Turandot.” But first-time writer/director Andrew Litvack has no idea how to construct a comedy. Plotlines and characters are abruptly introduced and then forgotten (the central murder plot is ignored for more than half of the movie). The actors are clearly in need of direction which never arrives, and they either try to carry on by their own devices (Birkin’s frantic, manic behavior and the hammy Bulle Ogier as a lesbian director) or they just wander about with little concern for what goes on around them (the half-awake Merhar as the voyeur and pretty but untalented Karim Saleh as the deadly hustler).
“Merci Docteur Rey” inexplicably and erratically ping-pongs from English to French, with the Francophonic characters speaking English to each other and the Anglophonic characters chatting in French. Even Paris looks ugly and miserable, whether photographed in the evening’s neon glow or in the bright midday sun. As they say in France, quel petard!
Posted on September 18, 2004 in Reviews by Phil Hall
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