VOD film review: Bye Bye Morons
Brendon Connelly | On 27, Jul 2021
Director: Albert Dupontel
Cast: Virginie Efira, Albert Dupontel, Nicolas Marié, Jackie Berroyer
Where to watch Bye Bye Morons online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema
Albert Dupontel’s Bye Bye Morons is a bleak and twisted confection, both by design and accident. On the surface it’s a sometimes sharp, sometimes deliciously black comedy about a terminally ill woman and a suicidal man undertaking a frantic caper.
Scratch a little and you’ll find a fairly conventional rom-com set up beneath the acid. This woolly layer of sweetness is as far as Dupontel wants you to go, it seems, but if you keep digging and really rip into things you’ll eventually find some other, and quite unpleasant, ideas worming about nearer the core.
Virginie Efira plays Suze Trappet, who is dying from a terrible condition brought on by an overdose of hairspray and is now looking to connect with the child she gave up for adoption years ago. She teams up with Cuchas (played by Dupontel) during the aftermath of his failed attempt to blow his own head off with a shotgun.
What follows is a kind of detective story, as this only-in-the-movies couple follow what scant leads there are to the adopted child’s whereabouts. At the same time, of course, they become quite emotionally involved with one another. Will there be a kiss? What else could all of this be leading to?
We’re not going to spoil it for you but the story points towards a pay-off that’s soundly predictable and also rash-inducingly uncomfortable.
It feels like a few small things have made all the difference. Dupontel clearly has sincere ambitions, wants to give his satire teeth, but also believes in good people doing good things. Unfortunately, tell-tale traces of casual sexism and, to a lesser extent, a weird glorification of Cuchas’ suicidal disposition pop up as regular roadblocks. There’s an especially icky subplot that amounts to the romanticisation of stalking, with one character’s unpleasant choices justified by a scene in an elevator that represents the film’s absolute low point.
The whole endeavour feels somehow protected, as if made from far too easy a position: it’s something cinematically middle-aged, neither the film of a young punk fighting the status quo or of an embittered veteran who feels too old to take any crap.
Terry Gilliam has a cameo early on, playing a suitably absurd online arms dealer. Dupontel has long been an admirer of Gilliam’s and has cast him before. This time, however, he has absolutely saturated his film with references to Gilliam’s work. Images, settings, character names and snatches of ideas and themes have been taken from Brazil (the greatest motion picture of all time, so who would blame him?) and more-or-less surgically implanted into this film. We have a Jack Lint, a Mr Kurtzman, so much paperwork that it will trigger your gag reflex and some very familiar staging and settings.
The production design and lighting are very different, mind you. Rather than an Everywhen 20th-century amalgam, Dupontel has taken a plausibly modern (albeit conspicuously white) French city and filtered it through lighting gels and heavy colour correction that bring to mind Jean-Pierre Jeunet, perhaps un-coincidentally the last successful French director to be so openly in thrall to Gilliam. This modernity is crucial; in one of the film’s most imaginative but nakedly nostalgic sequences, a blind man navigates through the city, the camera trained on a car window to capture both the actor’s performance and the buildings reflected in the glass.
Fans of Bobcat Goldthwait’s God Bless America might see several points of comparison there too – guess what? Goldthwait and Gilliam are also friends and fans of one another – but the angry, iconoclastic Goldthwait seems incapable of blindly enjoying his privilege and certainly never relaxes into it unawares.
When breaking a film down to its constituent parts and weighing them out, it usually becomes all too clear that each element cannot carry the same mass. If they could, then Bye Bye Morons would comfortably come out of the weigh-in ahead. It’s polished, there is some genuinely cinematic invention, plenty of its jokes work at least well enough and the cast are, for the most part, really very likeable. Unfortunately, the film’s failings are like rocks in its pockets. Regrettable, utterly unfortunate fist-sized nuggets of bad taste – and not the good kind – that ultimately sink the whole film.
Bye Bye Morons is available to rent on Curzon Home Cinema.