La Buche

French screenwriter Daniele Thompson spotlights the dysfunctional family in her directorial debut, La Buche. And what better time to spotlight family troubles than Christmas? Oddly enough, releasing La Buche into American theaters may not be the best idea, and it will most likely disappear before the four days preceding the holidays that it chronicles. It does not have the kind of story or star power that will keep a foreign film like this in theaters. The advertising is also abysmally low.

La Buche wraps itself around a gargantuan cast with its modern take on the family unit. At the beginning, it is hard to distinguish who is who, but this may be the point of Thompson and Christopher Thompson's script. The best way to get a grasp of this movie is to introduce each family member. Everything revolves around a Christmas dinner set up by Sonia (Emmanuelle Beart, Time Regained, Mission Impossible). Every year she arranges the dinner, which receives varying responses from her other family members. Her mother Yvette's (Francoise Fabian, The Letter) second husband just passed away. Yvette had three children with her estranged first husband Stanislas (Claude Rich, Actors), Sonia, Louba (Sabine Azema, My Man), and Milla (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Felix et Lola). Sonia is happily married to a rich man (or so she thinks). Stanislas used to be a great violinist, but now is just old and infirm. He lives with Louba and Joseph (Christopher Thompson, The Count of Monte Cristo). Louba sings for a living, and is carrying on an affair with a married man. Milla is the youngest, and relates more to Stanislas than Yvette. She a hard working career woman, and has no desire to go to Sonia's dinner.

All the various relationships become clear by the middle of the movie, including some extra little connections the Thompsons throw in just for fun. The main problem is that no one really cares what happens to these people. Although everybody is related, none have a great sense of family belonging. All the actors fare well, but their performance don't really begin until the last third of the movie, when everything comes to a head. In the meantime, things approach soap-operatic proportions. In the end, Thompson redeems herself by giving an ending that is realistic, but does not alienate the viewer. La Buche will probably never make it anywhere near the canon of classic holiday movies, so catch if you have any interest at all, catch it quick or it's likely you will never see it again.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 47 minutes, French with English Subtitles, Not Rated but some language and mature situations, would probably be a PG-13 or maybe an R.

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