The Taste of Others

Les Gouts des autres

The Taste of Others is a nice little film, but not much more than that. At its best, it is a witty look at relationships between ordinary people. The movie takes a large number of people and shows the interrelationships in their lives. Frequently, they tend to be a little too ordinary, all feeling that they are missing something in their lives. Castella (Jean-Pierre Bacri, Kennedy and I, Perhaps) is a middle-aged businessman, on the cusp of an important deal. Because of this, he has the services of Frank (Gerard Lanvin, Passionately), a bodyguard. Frank is bored more than anything else, constantly accompanying Castella on all his errands. Castella's wife, Angelique (Christiane Millet) is a horrible interior decorator with a rabid dog, and her driver is Bruno (Alain Chabat, Hard Off).

Castella is taking English lessons, but brushes off the teacher because he does not feel he needs them. Later, his wife takes him to an awful performance of Berenice, where he falls in love with Clara (Anne Alvaro, A mort la mort), the lead actress. After meeting her, he realizes she was his English tutor, so he begins his lessons in earnest. Bruno meets Manie (Agnes Jaoui, On the Run, Same Old Song), a bartender. He slept with Marie over a decade ago, but does not remember her. He begins to fall for her, but she ends up with Frank. It's all a big soap opera, and a little confusing at first. There are very few introductions. Jaoui, director and co-writer (with Bacri) just throws the viewer into the thick of things.

Castella's pathetic attempts to woo Clara are the foundation of the film. He is bored with his wife and completely smitten with Clara. He follows her around like a puppy, pretends to like what she likes, and even composes poetry for her. She is visibly indifferent towards his advances. Clara's friends enjoy making Castella look like a fool without him knowing it. His wife is oblivious to it, but Clara and Manie are friends, so essentially everybody else knows. There is not one truly happy person in The Taste of Others. Like most other movies, each character undergoes some journey of discovery. At the end of the movie, they are different people. The difference here is that there was no great life event to inspire their epiphany. They were just living life normally when they came to this realization.

Tthe small things in Jaoui and Bacri's script differentiate The Taste of Others from other films. The offhand asides that everybody makes are often hilarious. It is a genial humor that comes from tired, exasperated people making observations on life. They are the subtle things that people often miss if they are not listening carefully. The acting is naturalistic and restrained, so it does not feel like watching a movie. This is more an extended glimpse into the lives of a small group of people. The Taste of Others is riding high on its recent Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. It is by no means a bad film, but just doesn't have anything that stands out enough to merit its nomination.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 52 minutes, French with English Subtitles, Not Rated but an easy PG, possibly a PG-13.

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