Thugs also deserve love in a light ass

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“What if the crowd, but funny?” Is the question asked by “Love Songs for Tough Guys”, and if your answer is “Isn’t that just” Analyze this? ” ” “, you are not alone. Yet this French version of the story of the thug with the heart of gold is distinguished somewhat by a romantic bent that is, at least in spurts, genuinely romantic. The rest of the time, the light adventures of co-writer-director Samuel Benchetrit struggle to find a place.

Jeff de Claerke (François Damiens) is at the head of the eponymous heavyweight group, whose low-level thug gives him just time to take a poetry class so that he can woo a local cashier. His wife (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) is unaware of his future affair, which leads her to believe that the poorly written ode she finds one day thrown in the trash is actually for her. His team aren’t the most intimidating – one always quotes inner peace books, while another seems far too gentle to be in this area in the first place – and that’s only when they strike. that they wield real power.

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More than one scene consists of nothing more than two of Jeff’s henchmen violently persuading teenage girls to attend or skip a party in honor of Jeff’s daughter, for example – scenarios apparently meant to be funny. that don’t exactly cause laughter. In addition, his love poems being incomprehensible to their target, it is quite funny the first time but especially just sad after that.

It’s possible, if not likely, that Benchetrit’s humor lands better in the original French than when it’s captioned – they say poetry is what gets lost in translation, but comedy is just as hard to do. to transmit. (For further proof, consider the film’s much more evocative original title, “This Music Doesn’t Play For Anyone,” or “This Music Doesn’t Play For Anyone.”), Where he recently bowed out in the United States, are more inclined to enjoy seeing so many recognizable stars laughing at their usual on-screen characters.

As is often the case, existentialism saves the day here. There is a certain absurdity to all of this that befits the play being rehearsed, which happens to be the funniest and most successful of many subplots: an interpretation of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone’s relationship from Beauvoir who is endangered by each actor interpreted as Sartre dying like the drummer in “This Is Spinal Tap”. At least one of those untimely disappearances comes courtesy of Jacky (Gustave Kervern), yet another of Jeff’s underlings, who manages to get involved in the production after meeting the actress playing Beauvoir (Vanessa Paradis) while while trying to collect money from her convicted poor roommate.

“Love Songs for Tough Guys” is at its finest when it stops trying to be funny and simply lets its characters be, as when Jacky takes part in an exercise in which he and his fellow actors keep an imaginary feather afloat by blowing it from one person to another. anybody. It’s not the film’s only grace note, but it’s the most effective. The longer it lasts, in fact, the more the film begins to resemble a crowd-influenced French “Love, Actually” – a cross section of amorous characters who bond with unexpected people in unexpected ways. Like the movie itself, only a few of them are lucky in love, but the chase itself can sometimes be worth it, regardless of the outcome.

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