In the House

Charles Graham Dixon

Francois Ozon’s predictable tale follows Claude (Umhauer), a kind of creepy looking boy/man hybrid. The kid is a supposedly gifted writer who befriends his dim classmate, Rapha (Ughetto), under false pretences to gain first-hand experience of an idyllic middle class home. Each time Claude goes ‘In the House’ (yes, this film regularly references its own title) he hands the notes he makes of his visits to his English teacher (Luchini).

The film gets caught between genres without really embodying any of them. When attempting comedy, the humour falls rather flat – visual gags about naked blow up dolls, for example. When tackling drama and suspense, both are lacking, and when trying to deliver a satirical class debate, its observations are pedestrian. There are regular references to classical poetry, literature and, most bizarrely, China and its economy. These references are intended to be symbolic but seem irrelevant and highlight the director’s preoccupation with showing how well-read and politically attuned he is than adding meaning to the story.

Strangely, In the House doesn't feel like a French film or even a European film. Its locations are so lacking in identity and character, were it not for the French being spoken you would assume it was set in Surrey.

Ernst Umhauer and Emmanuelle Seigner. 

The film’s characters are also worryingly one-dimensional. The ‘middle class family’ are intended to be average and unremarkable, presumably a comment on the mind-numbing existence of the suburban bourgeoise. However, like all the attempts at satire in this film, the family’s portrayal is very old-hat. This is class satire that we have seen many times. In the House is most reminiscent of recent Woody Allen, where locations are confusing and wit is in short supply.

Like Tim Roth in upcoming UK release Broken, Kristin Scott-Thomas manages to look visibly bored and since it is suggested her character is 100 per cent French, her lapses into an English accent are unintentionally hilarious.

A bright spot in the film is Ernst Umhauer whose portrayal of Claude is good. He plays the character with enough ambiguity and peculiarity for it to work. There is a sense that this film may be amusing as a satire, comedy and drama for certain people of a certain age and class (i.e 40+ and middle to upper) and to the rest of us, rather pretentious, predictable and overlong.

Follow Charles on Twitter: @CharlesGD  

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