Le Placard is one of the more recent comedies of France’s writer/director Francis Veber, creator of the classic French comedy La Cage Au Folles. Starring Daniel Auteuil (The Widow of Saint Pierre), Thierry Lhermitte (The Dinner Game), and Gérard Depardieu (all-purpose French actor), Le Placard tells the story of François (Auteuil) a kind, but cowardly accountant who accidentally discovers he is about to be fired. Desperate and on the verge of suicide, François is rescued by his colorful, elderly neighbor who helps him concoct a plan to save his job –he’ll pretend to be gay. The fear of a discrimination law suit will prevent his employers from firing him; all François has to do is be his quiet, mild-mannered self and let the overactive imaginations of his coworkers do the rest.
Not only does this setup work brilliantly for the story’s plot, but it also demonstrates Veber’s comedic genius. A lesser comedy would have gone for the obvious gag of a straight man acting offensively foppish. However, rather than laughter at the expense of the outcast, Veber makes an uncomfortable and overcompensating society the butt of his joke. The primary target of ridicule is Félix (Depardieu), a homophobic Lummox who has always hated François, but now must hide his contempt for fear of losing his own job. The result is an overload of false affection with hilarious consequences.
Le Placard is as clever as it is charming. It takes a fresh and affectionate approach to sensitive subject matter that often suffers a stale and clichéd presentation. The acting is splendid, particularly Depardieu who give one of the funniest and most genuine performances of his career. Most of all, Le Placard, is a perfect example of Veber’s ability to take a ridiculously off-the-wall situation and not only make it seem plausible but milk it for every possible laugh without being cheap or over-the-top.
France, 2001 Rated R: for a scene of sexuality
Reviewed by Maggie