Not all nicely made movies are interesting — in fact, some are quite dull — and not all badly made movies deserve to be ignored. A badly made movie that you might want to look at came from France two years ago. It wasn’t widely viewed here. It’s Change of Plans (Le code a change), directed by Daniele Thompson, written by Christopher Thompson, who also acts in it, and Daniele Thompson.
The central event of the movie is a dinner party (yes, yes, this is French cinema) of ten friends and acquaintances, most of them in their forties, some in a profession, legal or medical. By and large, they’re an unhappy lot — this one is having an affair, that one is on the verge of leaving her husband, another hates her father, and one is close to burning out in his job, and so on. In fact, there are too many characters — too many for us to keep track of and too many for the director to dramatize in satisfying depth. Furthermore, we learn about the characters’ private lives by a series of intercut flashbacks, not all of them easy to follow. OK, the movie has problems.
Nonetheless, this is an interesting movie. The rather slapdash dinner party is completely believable, the dialog is good and the characters are engaging. We enjoy their company, despite their occasionally really bad behavior. This is, by the way, one of the few movies to show how cell phones have changed the rules when it comes to secret love notes. Because it’s an ensemble cast, and a good ensemble, no one stands out as a central figure, but Karen Viard (wonderfully energetic despite the apparently thickening body of an early forties woman) is the hostess, Marie-Laurence ‘ML’ Claverne, a lawyer, and is central to the movie in that way. Her character’s younger sister Juliette is played with irritable conviction by Marina Hands, and Emmanuelle Seigner does a good job as Sarah Mattei, a woman on the make. Pierre Arditi and Patrick Chesnais do a fine job and some nice comic turns as older men. But, in fact, the male roles tend to recede into the background, another weakness in this movie. And yet, and yet… It may be a movie you did well not to spend big bucks on at the local cinemaplex, but it’s worth watching on a rented DVD, and you get some good bonus features as well.