The Closet (15)
French humour rarely gets any better than this – a delicious comedy of errors in which Gallic superstars Daniel (The Eighth Day) Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu lock horns as rival office workers in a condom factory.
Francois Pignon (Auteuil) is boring. He’s so dull his wife has left him and his 17-year-old son doesn’t want to be in the same room.
Life at work – the aforementioned condom factory – isn’t any better, and when Francois hears he’s to be fired, he launches a fightback under the tutelage of his new neighbour. Their plan: pretend Francois is gay so he can’t be fired or his firm will be accused of rampant gay bashing.
As the fraud escalates the women in the office begin to see him a new light, while committed homophobe Felix, the head of personnel (Depardieu in fine form), finds himself desperate to make friends with his new gay pal to prove the company is not homophobic.
His ill-considered attempts to curry favour include buying Francois a pink jumper – surely the clothing of choice for every self-regarding queen?
Under the sure hand of writer/director Francis (Le Diner de Cons) Veber two of France’s biggest stars enjoy themselves immensely as office boor and mousy simpleton. Depardieu has a knack for playing awkwardness and here he excels as a bumbling, ill-at-ease professional, who finds himself mired in a game of office politics that he has no idea how to play.
Auteuil, on the other hand, adopts the blank looks of Stan Laurel to play a man utterly out of his depth and failing to understand the mechanics of what is going on around him: the little man who’s being sacked for being dull.
Where Veber triumphs is not in his perfect casting (which also includes Michele Leroque and Jean Rochefort) but in his spot-on examination of the petty jealousies and politics that taint office life all over the world.
Francois isn’t a bad bloke but because he doesn’t join in the laddish behaviour of his male colleagues or in flirting with the women in his tiny office, he’s considered peculiar.
Yet when this worm turns – and the flash of inspiration comes not from him but from an aged pouf who wants revenge on the system for being dumped due to his sexual orientation – it provides a succession of genuine belly laughs.
Best moment: Francois’s son’s open-mouthed mortification as his father takes part in a televised gay awareness parade and winds up wearing a giant condom on his head.
It could only happen in France.