I went to the movies this afternoon. There is something decadent about going to a 1:00 movie on a Wednesday afternoon. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, the temperature was perfect. And I wanted to sit in a dark theater.
There is something even more decadent about being the only person in the theater. It was like a private showing just for me!
Anyway, I went to see the movie The Fairy. I really hadn’t known anything about it until Monday when I looked it up on-line. The on-line plot summary referenced Tati and Keaton (see yesterday’s post) and it looked solid enough, despite the twee title. Written and directed by the Belgium based trio of Dominique Abel, Fiona Grant, and Bruno Romy, it is very broad in its humor. It is both light and sweet, but it feels very amateurish, which it isn’t. Abel, Grant and Romy are veteran comics, and are the acclaimed forces behind two other well-received films, Iceberg (2005) and Rumba (2008)
But The Fairy was slight. The story is thin and much of the physical comedy has been done before.
Very early in the movie, Dom (Dominique Abel), a sad-sack concierge in a hotel in Le Harve is trying to eat a sandwich. He sits, turns on the TV, and goes for his first bite when the front bell rings. He clicks off the television, puts down his sandwich, and takes care of business. This sequence repeats itself four more times, with Dom’s frustration rising each time.
The last two interruptions were by Fiona (Fiona Gordon), a disheveled woman who takes a room in the hotel but only after announcing that she is a fairy and that Dom has three wishes.
Later, when Dom finally gets to his sandwich, he swallows the cap to his ketchup–which we knew was in the sandwich and which adds some comic tension to every interruption of Dom’s meal…will he bite it now or not? It is Fiona who saves him. She performs an unusual heimlich manuever by sitting him on the front desk and running across the room before head-butting him in the chest. The lid to the ketchup bottle comes flying out.
And the caliber of the physical comedy has been set.
It is as Dom lies recovering on the lobby floor that Fiona once again announces that Dom has three wishes. He can only think of two: a motor scooter and a life time of free gas for it.
By the next morning, Fiona has delivered both.
Many of the gags have been done before: The valise that is holding a lap dog and which shuttles across the lobby floor…the falling down of several flights of steps…the turning a corner on a scooter and then reappearing with the driver chasing the riderless vehicle…the nearsighted waiter (Bruno Romy) who walks into things and repeatedly misses the table or the glass with his service…bumbling police. For me, much of it felt old. I had seen much of the same in films from the ’20s and ’30s.
And while Dominique Abel’s mugging and pratfalls are amusing, it is Fiona Grant’s physicality that carries the movie. She is a lithe as a ballerina (her bare feet seem as disfigured as a dancer’s) and as angular as a young Jerry Lewis (of whom she reminded me.) She runs awkwardly (there are several chase scenes reminiscent of the Keystone Kops) and dances more than oddly. There is an underwater dance scene (where Dom impregnates her inside a giant clam shell) and a Marx Brothers’ style phone session. And in it all, she is spectacular.
Perhaps the most amazing stunt is a late kiss. Dom and Fiona are being pulled away by two different groups of police. As they kiss, the police pull each of them away, but their lips remained locked. Finally, they are completely parallel to the ground, their bodies stretching in the air across a sizable space, holding each other up (I can only guess) with the force of their kiss while the police hold them by their lower legs. If it the scene isn’t computer generated, it is truly a great physical stunt–incredibly strenuous while seeming so casual and perfect.
Throughout the film, Dom and Fiona repeat a conversation:
Fiona: Dom, have you thought of what your third wish will be?
Fiona: Well take your time.”
This snippet occurs three or four times, but at the end, when Dom, Fiona and their baby walk into the sunset (having once more eluded everyone who is chasing them) and Fiona asks her question, we feel that Dom has already received his third wish–his very unusual family.
Overall, it wasn’t a wasted day. But The Fairy wasn’t the movie I was looking for. Cute, inventive, and smile inducing. It just seemed very old-hat.