A strange and ironic comedy that sees its characters grappling with the therapeutic power of poetry, theater and love that allows them to overcome the loneliness and abandonment that threatens their lives. This is the idea behind director Samuel Benchetrit’s project (last year he directed The 7 Lives of Léa), who in Sleeping with Sartre directs the actresses Vanessa Paradis and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. Within the soundtrack there are hits of the French song and piano pieces signed by the musician Gonzales.
The story tells the interweaving of the events of a small local boss, Jeff (played by Francois Damiens) and his loyalists, each in some way grappling with love. The first, despite having been married to Katia (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) for almost 25 years, wants to win over a cashier he has fallen in love with by writing her bizarre but in their own way romantic love poems. Then there are Jésus (Joey Starr) and Poussin (Bouli Lanners) who try to help their boss’s daughter organize a party during which they can approach the schoolmate she has a crush on. Finally, Jacky (Gustave Kervern) falls in love with an aspiring theater actress (Vanessa Paradis) who would instead have the task of supervising and to be able to conquer her, he is even willing to play with her in a show on the sex life of the philosopher Sartre . Art and love will be able to give meaning to the life of the protagonists, demonstrating that even the “hardest” hide a soft heart.
A few laughs but little energy
Benchetrit’s film is presented as an ensemble comedy that follows its various male protagonists, who make up a small group of the local underworld (the film is shot in the town of Dankerque), grappling with love in its most diverse forms. These paths, precisely because of the premises of the characters, should reserve comedy and laughter on several levels. Unfortunately, however, this remains only in the initial intentions. Perhaps the one that sees Jésus and Pussin as protagonists, the two henchmen who have the task of helping the young daughter of their boss, works a little more than the other events. Some laughter emerges from this strange relationship, but above all the affection and bond created between the two men who do not have a real family relationship with the girl, but who care about her as much as two real fathers, and the trust that she herself puts in them. The other male characters, on the other hand, remain rather flat, without particular comic accents, if not for a few small smiles due more to the general situation rather than to the jokes of the characters themselves.
Overall, in fact, the film is almost more a parody of a comedy, which arouses hilarity for the bizarre and surreal situations that are created more than for a sagacious writing. The pace of the film is slow, punctuated by a few too many moments of silence and not enough time is dedicated to the funniest and most convincing characters in the story. A note of merit is the scene towards the end of the film starring the actress Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (who is otherwise almost always silent when on stage), who tells how she feels about her husband and with her words it only explains what love is, but above all it reminds the man who no longer believed in their marriage. Also good is Vanessa Paradis, who plays the aspiring stage actress with a stutter in the film. The film could have worked better with a bit more rhythm and more energy in the writing of these characters with good potential not fully exploited, starting with the beautiful parable on the power of art in its various forms, which accompanies the path of each of the protagonists.