Starring: Benoît Poelvoorde, Virgine Efira, Pauline Serieys
Director: Jean-Pierre Améris
Running Time: 97 mins
Family For Rent (Une famille à louer) is a French film about a wealthy but lonely man who decides to use his fortune to pay off the debts of a working-class family, in exchange for the chance to stay and live with them for three months.
As nice as some of the more tender moments of this film are, the majority just doesn’t work as well as it wants to. On the whole, Family For Rent is a charming film, but over the course of its runtime, it moves away from an impressively interesting family comedy to a cheesy and generic romantic comedy, whilst the quality of the humour reduces significantly as well.
However, let’s start on the bright side, with the performances. Putting in a delightfully weird turn as the shy upper-class man, Benoît Poelvoorde is great fun to watch, particularly in the most awkward moments that he pulls off so well. Meanwhile, Virgine Efira is a nice presence as the woman who takes him into her family, and boasts some excellent chemistry that makes their relationship enjoyable throughout, even if its ultimate fate is a little disappointing.
In fact, for the first hour or so in this film, I was surprised by how engaging the story was. Sure, it’s all a little preposterous, but that didn’t have any effect on my enjoyment of watching a man trying his best to do good for both himself and a small family. At times, it’s a really heartfelt and charming watch, and does a great job to get you wrapped up enough into really caring for the main characters, hoping they’ll succeed in everything they do.
The comedy for the first hour is pretty good too. There aren’t any outstanding gags, but a consistent stream of awkwardness and hilarious bickering throughout makes for a lot of good laughs along the way, adding to the enjoyment value of the already wonderful story.
Then, however, the film takes a turn for the worse. I had been impressed that director Jean-Pierre Améris and the scriptwriters had kept the film away from feeling like a generic comedy for as long as they did, but the final act of the film features some painfully disappointing decisions, as we see an unnecessary romance develop, intrusion from various other family members, and an overall disruption of the excellently contained central story before.
Following that, the laughs take a dive as well, and there’s very little else to be hugely entertained by. It’s not an awful conclusion, but given the fact that the preceding hour of the film was so impressively enjoyable, it was hugely disappointing to see it take such a wrong turn towards the end, and that’s why Family For Rent gets a 7.1 from me.