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La Fée (The Fairy) | Review

French Comedy/Dance Duo Abel, Gordon, & Romy Fly Into Familiar Territory…Again

The Tati-inspired dance trio of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, and Bruno Romy are at it again, crafting an awfully similar follow-up to their previous feature, Rumba.The Fairy is light on magic and the supernatural, but flutters breezily along with joke-a-minute fluff. Usually more admirably inventive than laugh-aloud funny, the success of the humor with individual viewers will depend largely on a tolerance for circus-routine slapstick. As in their other films, the ‘plot’ – this one involving a wish-granting fairy – is only really a conceit by which to give the illusion of continuity to what is essentially a string of short films. By the halfway mark, The Fairy begins to overstay its welcome, feeling less like an ethereal creature, and more like an annoying mosquito that needs to be swatted down.

The events unfold when a hotel attendee named Dom (Dominique Abel) is approached by self-proclaimed fairy, Fiona (Fiona Gordon), who grants him three wishes. Many of the jokes up to this point involve a deadpan, anglophonic tourist trying to sneak his dog up to his room, absurdly unaware of how conspicuous his attempts are. Dom, meanwhile, wants to watch some TV while he eats his dinner, but is consistently interrupted, at exactly the same point in the show’s theme song, by a naggy customer. The trio (who write, direct, and star in all of their films) are certainly confident in their material, milking every punchline until it is completely run dry. This, of course, leads to a few chuckles followed by many more groans and throat-clearings.

Things take a chaotic turn once Fiona magically becomes nine months pregnant over the course of about nine seconds (her belly swelling right before our eyes), and everyone is blatantly incapable of caring for the baby in a societally acceptable manner. Much of the humor hinges on this kind of ignorance as it transforms into a vaguely avant-garde ballet of bodily defines mechanisms. This would be refreshing if it were merely an occasional comedic device; ‘stupidity’ is not a tolerable decision-motivator with which fill 90 minutes of screen time.

The screen is consistently candy-colored, like a piece of childlike Pop Art. Costumes, make-up, interior lighting and design are striped, polka-dotted and vibrant against bright blue skies and amber sunsets. It sets an appropriately optimistic tone to compliment its charades. Often filmed with the camera aimed straight on at a wall, the mise-en-scene is comparable to that of a carnival stage play, further enforcing the way scenes feel like intimate skits.

While The Fairy is predicatable a Primarily three-person show, there are a number of supporting characters who usually arrive and disappear on a scene-by-scene basis. A women’s rugby team drink the night away with Dom, Fiona, and their baby towards the end, sending the film into its final, intermittently successful set of gags drenched in inebriated acts of parental irresponsibility. No actor, supporting or leading, lends any sort of rewarding performance, for everyone is pretty equally just acting goofy.

Given the repetition of their three features, and the recurring criticism that individual bits work better than any coherent whole does, there would be little protest if Abel, Gordon, and Romy switched to exclusively dabble in the short film format. There isn’t the same kind of spotlight as there is on features, but then I’m not sure these guys need one shone on them anyway. There individual jokes – that is, the ones that are actually funny – would have more room to breathe, and wouldn’t get lost in an overstuffed feature.

2011 Cannes Int. Film Festival – Directors’ Fortnight

May 14th, 2011

Rating 2.5 stars

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Blake Williams is an avant-garde filmmaker born in Houston, currently living and working in Toronto. He recently entered the PhD program at University of Toronto's Cinema Studies Institute, and has screened his video work at TIFF (2011 & '12), Tribeca (2013), Images Festival (2012), Jihlava (2012), and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. Blake has contributed to's coverage for film festivals such as Cannes, TIFF, and Hot Docs. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (Talk to Her), Coen Bros. (Fargo), Dardennes (Rosetta), Haneke (Code Unknown), Hsiao-Hsien (Flight of the Red Balloon), Kar-wai (Happy Together), Kiarostami (Where is the Friend's Home?), Lynch (INLAND EMPIRE), Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), Van Sant (Last Days), Von Trier (The Idiots)

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