The Château Movie Review

Director Jesse Peretz scores some major laughs in the delightful, shrewd, and cozy French farce The Château, a cross-cultural comedy which can be considered the eccentric and frothy version of Gosford Park. Peretz, who helmed the arbitrary and forgettable First Love, Last Rites, serves up an energetic and irreverent examination of class study in a wickedly humorous charmer. The film was shot, to mixed results, with a hand-held digital video camera to give the movie an informal, spontaneous feel, and Peretz's ensemble cast were all encouraged to improvise without the safety net of a solid script. Although The Château at times appears as a scattershot project, the spry storyline more than compensates for the minor drawbacks. This is one small-scale satire that certainly knows how to celebrate its off-kilter conventions.

All is quaint at the titular chateau amongst the chief manservant and his intimate staff until a sudden shockwave rocks the establishment. Suddenly two adoptive American brothers arrive, one a Midwestern white, frumpy bohemian type (Paul Rudd) and the other a black, balding, sharply-dressed businessman (Romany Malco). The siblings are there in the scenic French countryside to claim the expansive deteriorating estate left to them by an unknown departed great uncle.

Of course it plays to comedy as the two uniquely different brothers come together and eventually confront the peppered personalities of the housing staff. Inevitably, conflict arises because the duo has one thing in mind--make a quick profit by selling their property quickly and comfortably. However, they are met with resistance because the wily chateau workers have another thing in mind entirely. Naturally, the relentless antics give this scatterbrained vehicle a hearty farcical liftoff.

The Château is an assortment of broad-minded humor meant to paint a complicated portrait of human foibles and how we all relate to one another. As a filmmaker, Peretz is masterful when pitting the obvious differences of his protagonists (black versus white, American versus French, American hick versus American hipster, privileged owners versus hard-working tenants, etc.) and utilizing it as an exasperating stamp to highlight the film's comical hijinks. Peretz's inexplicable contempt for everything gives The Château its noted sardonic fiber.

As the waspy nebbish pseudo-intellectual of the twosome, Rudd is a hoot and his haphazard attempt to command the French tongue (as witnessed in the riotous subtitles) is definitely a highlight. And Malco is thoroughly pleasing as the swaggering, urbane self-made man with the durable confidence factor. Special notice should go to actress Sylvie Testud who practically steals the show as the seemingly ditsy, desirable French maid whom the dueling brothers fall for.

The Château is erratic at times, but its flaky heart is in the right place. Overall, it's a wacky and inspired little film that works effortlessly at delivering genuine, acerbic laughs.

Pommes frites.


The Château Rating

" Good "

Rating: R, 2001


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