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The Closet Review

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François is about to be fired from his job, is barely on speaking terms with his ex-wife and son, and is short of friends. But when, at his neighbour's suggestion, he allows rumours to spread the workplace that he's a homosexual, it revolutionises his lif

★★★★★

Audiences looking for an arthouse antidote to th esummer of Star Wars won't find it in this traditional farce from the writer of La Cage Aux Folles (The Birdcage) and director of Le Dîner De Cons. This is much more a middle-of-the-road crowdpleaser, that was a huge hit in France, and no doubt it is destined to follow Veber's previous works in being Hollywoodised in the near future.

Daniel Auteuil's central performance is the glue holding the whole enterprise together. Although he shares a character name with Jacques Villeret's embarrassing dinner guest in Le Dîner De Cons, he is nowhere near as hateful. Deliciously understated, his behaviour, once he is "outed", doesn't change one iota, but the perceptions of those around him radically alter.

Veber's script really hones in on those little assumptions everyone makes about their colleagues, and shows how a small piece of gossip can change those views entirely.

Overnight Pignon goes from boring colleague to talked-about celebrity - his personal life now open game for the wildest speculation. His previous enemy, personnel manager Guillaume - rather than boot him out the door - is told to befriend him and make him feel cherished. Félix the homophobe's efforts at political correctness are painful to watch - Depardieu squirms while trying to woo the now flouted employee to hilarious effect.

Aumont, as the neighbour, is perhaps the most tragic character in the film. He brings a touch of realism to Belone, an older homosexual who has lived through the gay revolution without personally being able to reap the benefits. He lives vicariously through Pignon's rise to fame, and the friendship that develops between them provides a touching balance to the broader scenes.

Neither as revolutionary as Amélie nor as funny as Le Dîner De Cons, this is not French cinema to change the world, merely a fun, superbly-played farce. Catch it in the original version, before them darn Yanks get their hands on it.