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What's In A Name? (Le Prenom) - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published April 15th 2013
Directors: Alexandre de La Patellière, Matthieu Delaporte
Cast: Charles Berling, Patrick Bruel, Judith El Zein

Le Prenom starts off like Amelie: with machine gun delivery a voice-over gives us a run-down of the main characters, their likes, foibles, and a concise life history.

Such allusions to the 2001 favourite, however turn out to be deceiving. Once this exhausting intro is over the movie settles down into what is essentially a filmed stage play. Set entirely in one apartment, five friends argue, spill secrets and generally push each other's buttons.

The film's title refers to the first main point of discussion. Vincent is soon to be a father, and he tells his friends the name he and his partner have decided on for their son. His choice is so controversial it causes a heated and vitriolic argument. It is however, only one of a series of discussions, and with each one the stakes get higher.

Le Prenom has been that rare foreign language film which has actually been a big success outside its native country. While the French have understandably lapped it up, it has also been a big money spinner in Italy, Germany and Spain, to name a few Euro countries. It's not hard to see why, its clever dialogue rips along, the characters are well etched and there are plenty of interesting dynamics between the five of them.

Audience enjoyment will however depend on how sympathetic you
are willing to be towards this flawed sampling of bourgeois Parisian life. The two alpha males in the group are a particular challenge to warm to.

Considering its confines, Le Prenom does a good job of keeping the audience involved, compared to recent offerings like Carnage. Much of this can be credited to the diversity of the characters and the perfectly pitched performances of the cast, all but one of which performed their roles in the original stage play.

You may not like the characters much by the end of the film, but if
you laugh half as much as the packed cinema the night I saw it, you'll be in for a treat.

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Why? A smart French farce.
Where: At selected cinemas
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