By Don Willmott
A tightly knit bourgeois French family flies apart in multiple spasms of insanity and sexual depravity in Sitcom, noted French director François Ozon's first full-length feature. The title indicates that all this is supposed to be funny, and it is at first, in a sort of Almodovarish way. But as the layers of weirdness pile on, any feeling of farce, which demands a light touch, is hopelessly weighed down. Blame it all on the white lab rat that dad brings home as a pet.
Father (François Marthouret), the doctor, and Mother (Évelyne Dandry), the nervous housewife, have raised two teens in their mansionette. Nicolas (Adrien de Van) is typically sullen and withdrawn, while Sophie (Marina de Van) is vivacious and enjoys a rollicking relationship with her boyfriend David (Stéphane Rideau). Both think the rat is cute. Mom, who hates the rat, hires a new spitfire of a housekeeper named Maria (Lucia Sanchez) and invites her and her African boyfriend Ebdu (Jules-Emmanuel Eyoum Deido) (whom Mom finds tres exotique in a slightly racist way) to a welcome dinner. It's at this dinner that Nicolas announces he's gay and storms upstairs. Ebdu volunteers to talk to the boy, but once he's in the bedroom, he takes sexual advantage.
Soon after, Sophie hurls herself out a window and becomes an angry paraplegic, much to the distress of David, who still loves her and is quite willing to become her literal whipping boy if that's what it takes to keep their sex life active. Maria finds this all fascinating and tends to David's sexual frustration in an exceptionally friendly way (French full-frontal alert!)
Mom, of course, is a nervous wreck by now, and things get worse when Nicolas starts throwing same-sex orgies in his bedroom. After a brief erotic interlude with the pet rat, which she is convinced has brought "bad vibes" into the house, she concludes that some good old-fashioned incest might straighten out the boy, and it's at that point that you may want to exclaim "Sacre bleu!" and eject the DVD. Throughout it all, Dad remains calm and reasonable, with a live-and-let-live attitude. But if he's really so calm, why is he loading that gun, and what is he going to do with it? Perhaps step one should be to shoot the rat.
It's virtually impossible to know who or what, if anything, Ozon is targeting with Sitcom. Middle-class values? Sexual prudery? Communication failures? Racism? Sexism? Rats? It's quite an eyeful, but it's not funny enough, sexy enough, or pointed enough to make a lasting impression.
Hey, this isn't Friends.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 27th May 1998
Distributed by: Mars Films
Production compaines: Fidélité Productions
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 4
Cast & Crew
Starring: François Marthouret as le père, Marina de Van as Sophie, Adrien de Van as Nicolas, Lucía Sánchez as Maria, Stéphane Rideau as David, Jules-Emmanuel Eyoum Deido as Abdu, Jean Douchet as le psychothérapeute, Sebastien Charles as le garçon aux courgettes, Vincent Vizioz as le garçon aux cheveux roux, Kiwani Cojo as le garçon au piercing, Gilles Frilay as l’homme aux moustaches, Antoine Fischer as le petit garçon, Évelyne Dandry as la mère