Film and TV

Human Nature

While it is surely difficult to concoct fresh, lively scenarios from worn elements (neurotic family, neurotic city, neurotic holiday), it is the filmmaker's obligation, at the very least, to try. To her credit, veteran scribe Daniele Thompson clearly decided to take a very personal tack with her feature directorial debut, co-scripting with her son Christopher (who also appears as the James Dean of the piece), but La Bûche arrives as a series of vignettes seemingly adapted from the journal entries of a monumentally average person. At first, this seems like a rich world, festooned with lush holiday decorations (employed with sentimental aimlessness) and echoing with classic carols (ditto), but it soon devolves into an apparent series of outtakes from a movie with a story to tell. Yvette (Françoise Fabian), a spunky matriarch depressed by the loss of her violinist husband, seeks to reunite her triumvirate of confused daughters for Christmas. Without any particular agenda, we stumble through the lives of the eldest, Louba (Sabine Azema), a flamboyant singer, pregnant at 42, and Sonia (Emmanuelle Beart), the Martha Stewart of the family. The youngest, Milla (Charlotte Gainsbourg), is the hellcat of the three, raging at the recycling of ribbon and wrap that so corrupts the season in her eyes. As the film unfolds and we catch cursory glimpses of the characters' hopes and motivations (wrapped around loads of faux-soulful posturing and chain-smoking), it becomes clear that Thompson's primary concern is to revel in the intricacy of human relationships. So sad, then, that these humans are so terminally boring.
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Gregory Weinkauf