Friday, December 13, 2013

Movie with Abe: What’s in a Name

What’s in a Name
Directed by Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de La Patellière
Released December 13, 2013

Usually, December is a time reserved for Oscar movies, and the ones that make it over from other countries are those that are eligible for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film or the one or two films that infamously didn’t get chosen by their home country. This year, filmgoers get a real treat – a box-office smash in France from 2012 that lost the César Award for Best Film to “Amour.” “What’s in a Name” is a captivating, energetic, and thoroughly enjoyable exercise in conversation and the intersection of many different clashing intellects, with fantastic performances and a truly smart script.

Setting a film in one location can be a good idea, but it can also prove tricky. Most often, such projects feel two much like plays, and, in most cases, are adapted from plays. While “What’s in a Name” is based on a play and adapted by its author, Matthieu Delaporte, it manages a seamless transition to the big screen, using its limited space to excellent effect. Recent films such as “Carnage” and “Between Us” have tried isolated multiple couples in one small apartment to mediocre success, and this one hits it out of the park.

The characters in “What’s in a Name” are all richly developed, and their attributes reveal themselves over the course of the film as they espouse their opinions about certain matters and stick to their convictions. Pierre is the excessive intellectual, his wife Élisabeth the eternal hostess. Her brother Vincent is a skilled salesman but can be too impulsive and aggressive, while his wife Anna might be thought of as standoffish and judgmental. Élisabeth’s lifelong friend Claude doesn’t take sides, and as a result it’s impossible to know how he ever truly feels about anything. Put together in the same room for almost two hours, these individuals make one mesmerizing group.

Several of the performances in this film have been recognized by the César Awards, and they’re worth mentioning here. The entire cast is terrific, but special mention should be made of actress Valérie Benguigui, who took home her César for portraying Élisabeth just six months before she died from breast cancer. It’s a spectacular final performance, and the entire ensemble deserves commendation. The script is superb, and this occasionally dramatic film is easily one of the most enjoyable and immensely watchable films of the year. Find out more about the film here.


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