LET MY PEOPLE GO!



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I had a friend once who was, one might say, a tad flamboyant, a tad Jack McFarland.  When I introduced this friend to an acquaintance of mine, the acquaintance said of my friend, “Every time he takes a drag off his cigarette, it’s like he’s having an orgasm”. 
That was one of the first thoughts I had upon laying eyes on Ruben, the central character of Let My People Go!, the new farce written by Mikael Buch (who also directed) and Christophe (Love Songs) Honoré.  But perhaps no one could describe him better than his husband Teemu, who tells him he acts like a French actress (Isabelle Adjani to be exact, and though I can’t argue with that, I think Norma Shearer, suffering and suffering in costumes by Edith Head, is more apt). 
Ruben is French, but he lives in Finland and works for the post office (he puts on his uniform as if he were preparing for his close up, Mr. DeMille).  The world he lives in is as candy coated as he is with houses of vibrant colors and lawns manicured to within an inch of their lives.  He and Teemu live a fairy tail existence.  That is, until IT happens.  I won’t tell you what IT is, but suffice it to say, IT does (in a bit too forced a manner, perhaps, but still…) and Ruben panics.  Panics?  He shrieks and cries and cries and shrieks and shrieks and cries (you get the drift) until Teemu throws him out.  And Ruben sees little choice but to come home to Paris in time for the holidays. (Oh, did I mention that Ruben’s Jewish and is getting home in time for Passover?  Well, if I didn’t, he is and he does.)
And then comes one of the central ironies of the story as we find out that Ruben didn’t flee to Finland so he could be free to be the drama queen he is.  No, he went to Finland to escape a suffocation of DQ’s, a family so  “me, me, me”, it makes Ruben look like the normal one of the group.  His brother is a bully with anger management problems; his sister, who is treated badly by her husband, greets Ruben by whispering in his ear that she’s getting a divorce and don’t tell anyone; his father, who has left home, waxes profoundly (or so he thinks) that he is to be pitied for being in love with two women at the same time; and his mother (played by that refugee from Pedro Almodovar films, Carmen Maura) has asthma attacks while doing aerobics to Hava Nagila (no, I’m not kidding—this is almost worth the price of admission alone) while worrying that her son won’t have a child to continue the Jewish race.  (Oh, did I mention they were Jewish?  If I didn’t, it’s kind of important because one of the themes seems to be that if you looked up Jewish in Roget’s, you’d find drama queen there.). 
Let My People Go! Is really a showcase (would a movie about a DQ have it any other way) for Nicolas Maury, who plays Ruben as if he was to the Adrian gown born, bursting with a petulant flamboyancy because no one will treat him with the respect a true DQ deserves (how can he, with so much competition).  Ruben is the sort of character who usually gets marginalized in films and TV as an accessory (like a Gucci Bag) for the female lead, or the straight gay man’s best friend so that the gay man won’t seem so…gay.  So it’s refreshing to see one take the center stage spotlight he so richly deserves (at least in his own mind).
Though fun, the movie isn’t much more than that.  The farce hits its mark at times, but it never quite reaches the heights of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (which also starred Ms. Maura) or The Birdcage.  But it’s sweet and satisfying and a perfectly good time in the theater.
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