Foreign Favourites Series: Le Dîner de Cons – Dinner of Fools / The Dinner Game (1998)

There have been eight entries to my Foreign Favourites series,  and I’ve been delighted with the standard shown and the range of films covered both geographically and thematically. My thanks to Caragale, FilmnerdblogFilm GrimoireJ James, Movierob, Oh! That Film Blog, Theflimculb and Where the Wild Things Are. If you haven’t read them, I really do recommend reading both their impressive reviews and their site overall. 

A little later than intended, here is my review for French film Le Dîner de Cons. Please feel free as always to offer your thoughts.

 Le Dîner de Cons – Dinner for Fools / The Dinner Game (1998)

Le Dîner de Cons film poster

Many of us have a party trick. We can perform magic, mimic a celebrity or flex our bodies certain ways. But what if the party was a trick in itself? Something this delightful French comedy explores with a wonderful mix of hilarity, character development and social insight.

Adapted and directed from his own play of the same name, Francis Veber’s script tells the story of a group of wealthy businessmen who each have to bring along the biggest fool they could find to their weekly dinner party. These guests are never told the true reason for their invite but instead are unwittingly providing the entertainment. The person who invites the biggest fool is later voted the winner for finding the “Champion idiot”.

So when successful publisher Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lhermitte) hears of François Pignon (Jacques Villeret), the dull but ridiculously enthusiastic miniature matchstick maker of famous landmarks, he is thrilled. And as Pignon is an employee of the Finance Ministry, there is a sense of ironic pleasure for the tax-dodging Brochant.

Le Dîner de Cons scene

But things start to go awry when Brochant hurts his back playing golf at his country club and struggles to even stand up. Despite this, he still clings to the hope of going, as he is convinced success is all but assured. His beautiful wife Christine (Alexandra Vandernoot) is unsympathetic to his discomfort as she knows the purpose of the dinner. From his patronising attitude towards the simple-minded Pignon, the injured Brochant is now left fully dependent on him, subtly creating a power shift. It is one Brochant struggles to stop as he is trying to keep his wife happy, placate his mistress, trying to hide his valuables from Pignon and resolve issues with an old friend. In the midst of a flailing romantic triangle, will Brochant be able to maintain his secrets from the increasingly suspicious Pignon as it all threatens to end in disaster?

There is so much glory in English theatre, it is easy to forget just what creative treasures there are outside of the traditional works. This gem of a French film is a case in point. A wonderfully unique premise that is filled with farcical comedy as well as brilliantly sharp lines. Throw in two characters well outside of their comfort zone trying to best adapt to the situation, supported by a distinctive set of supporting characters who shed light on the character’s behaviour, and you have a riotous ensemble of comic brilliance. At the 1999 César Awards, the French national film awards, Le Dîner de Cons won three awards from six nominations. Though disappointingly losing out for its script, it did win for Best Film, and for its two main stars, Lhermitte and Villeret.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a film adapted from a play, the directing is more functional than unspectacular, but it is one of the funniest films you will ever see. Brilliant from start to finish, the events unfurl with energy and verve, and you really do care about the characters. This short, 80-minute film is guaranteed to make you laugh whatever mood you are in. Though you might end up suspicious the next time you’re invited to a dinner party…

Overall: A for awesome