Review: Love Songs for Tough Guys
- CANNES 2021: In Samuel Benchetrit’s new film, there are several amusing moments, myriad over-the-top characters and a few potentially interesting subplots, but the overall meal is not tasty enough
After Macadam Stories [+see also:
film profile] in 2015, Samuel Benchetrit returns to the Croisette with Love Songs for Tough Guys [+see also:
interview: Samuel Benchetrit
film profile], taking part in Cannes' brand-new Cannes Premiere strand. The story, penned by the director himself with Gábor Rassov, follows a group of men living in a port city in Northern France. Even though in the first scene we see them attending a kind of poetry club, they all, to some extent, have problems with anger management, and have no hesitation in using mild or brutal violence to overcome their everyday problems or get rid of anyone provoking them.
The plot of this (overly) absurd comedy is quite uneven, but Benchetrit tries to unite the characters by choosing the overarching theme of the search for love, which, in principle at least, creates a wonderful contrast with their fisticuffs-loving attitude. The feeling one gets, however, is one of watching more of a juxtaposition of scenes and situations that are rarely coherent in terms of the narration. Nor are they well connected; in many cases, they confuse the audience while still exhibiting a great sense of humour.
In one of the subplots, a ruthless family man called Jeff (who is probably a smuggler or someone conducting illegal business in the port, although the movie never clarifies this), played by François Damiens, falls in love with a younger cashier at the local supermarket (Constance Rousseau) and sends his calmer adoptive brother Neptune (Ramzy Bedia) to deliver his clumsy poems to her in order to seduce her and ask her out on a date. The group of weirdos is rounded off by the strange couple made up of Poussin (Bouli Lanners) and Jesus (Joeystarr), as well as Jacky, the (occasionally enjoyable) crazy character portrayed by Gustave Kervern.
Three main female figures accompany this group of oddballs: a forty-something wife questioning her beauty and whether Jeff is still in love with her (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi); a dazed, aspiring actress called Suzanne (convincingly played by Vanessa Paradis); and Jessica (Raphaëlle Doyle), a teenage girl involved in the most obvious of youth-drama subplots – she feels unsure about herself and her body, and she’s in love with one of the tough guys attending her secondary school (Jules Benchetrit).
Thus, as one might imagine, there is really too much on the plate to digest. Everyone knows that having too many ingredients does not necessarily enhance the quality of the food served. In this case, most – if not all – of these ingredients would be delicious if served separately or along with just one or two sides; however, massed together, they will definitely fill your stomach, but you’ll be hard pressed to enjoy the meal. And that’s what may well happen to viewers when they watch Benchetrit’s new comedy; they may laugh (even very frequently, if they happen to be lovers of nonsensical humour, musicals about Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and quirky, over-the-top acting), but they will not understand where the movie is leading. Sadly, the answer is nowhere.
Love Songs for Tough Guys is a French-Belgian production staged by Single Man Productions and JM Films. It will be released in France on 1 September by UGC Distribution, while its international sales have been entrusted to Orange Studio.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.