Cote d’Azur

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In the groan-inducing French sex farce Cote d’Azur, an insufferably chipper family of four retreats to an idyllic summer beach home to lounge on the sand, sing little songs to each other and fuck whoever happens to be around, of whatever gender.

It’s all meant to be very funny and open and liberating — like a sexed-up “very special episode” of Growing Pains (in French) — but anyone who can make it through 90 mirthless minutes of this stuff either hasn’t gotten any in a long time, or is getting too much, with the wrong people.

The movie might not be so bad if it didn’t go through so many absurd contortions to justify all the bed-hopping. The family in question is comprised of loving mom Béatrix (played by the usually irresistible Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), uptight dad Marc (Gilbert Melki), awkward teenage son Charly (the Muppet-like Romain Torres) and 20-ish daughter Laura (Sabrina Seyvecou). The daughter runs off with her boyfriend early in the film, never to reappear; apparently, sex between two hot young heterosexuals doesn’t figure into the filmmakers’ design. Instead, the writing-directing team of Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau chose to concentrate on the havoc that transpires when Charly’s gay friend Martin and Béatrix’s dorky side-dish Mathieu both show up for a visit.

The cute, twinky Martin harbors an inexplicable crush on the troll-like Charly, who’s straight but, for reasons never explained, wants to convince his parents he’s gay. Meanwhile, Béatrix’s scuzzy, comb-over-sporting lover keeps showing up on her doorstep in the middle of the night buck naked, a sight that should be censored for audience members of all ages. So while Mom keeps ducking out for a quick shag, Dad is left to ponder his lackluster sex life and jerk off while thinking about Martin, who in turn cruises the woods by the ocean for some nightly, anonymous sex.

This may all sound like one of director Todd Solondz’s ultracynical satires, but Ducastel and Martineau keep struggling to remind the audience that it’s supposed to be a frothy comedy. Mom and Dad perform a musical number about oysters, sounding like nails on a chalkboard. There’s a ton of forced slapstick jokes involving cold showers, getting stoned and screwing on the beach (but not in that order). The childlike piano score sounds like it was lifted from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. No one gets a believable history or motivation: The movie doesn’t even bother to give a backstory to Béatrix’s insatiable, overacting lover, who’s supposed to be a straight stud but is unintentionally the gayest thing in the movie. It’s a relief to see something that isn’t fatalistic or puritanical about screwing around, but when the characters’ affairs are this easy and consequence-free, you start wishing for anything — an earthquake or plane crash or serial killer — that might make their lives a little more difficult.

 

In French with English subtitles. Showing at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111).

Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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