Streaming cinema fans in search of the silly, the sexual, the satiric and the subtitled should definitely take a gander at “I Am Not an Easy Man,” a French sex farce about seeing the world from the other gender’s side.
It’s “What Women Want” or more exactly, the old Ellen Barkin/Jimmy Smits body-switch comedy “Switch” — going further, into funnier places in a post #timesup take on the gender wars.
We meet Damien, played by Vincent Elbaz of “The Hundred Foot Journey,” at the office, pitching a horrifically sexist phone app, the “Bone-o-Meter,” an idea hilariously endorsed by one and all in a conference room full of men.
Save for one. The only woman there is appalled.
Chuckling later, he strolls with all the swagger his entitlement can give him, swapping come-ons with assorted female shop owners and casual acquaintances who suggest assorted “friends with benefits” arrangements. He goes to his pal Christophe’s book-signing, and comes-on, aggressively and obnoxiously, to Christophe’s champagne-serving assistant, Alexandra (Marie-Sophie Ferdane). He even has a favorite pick-up line.
“Do you know what champagne and orange juice is?”
“Your mouth looks pretty when you say it.”
Say good-bye, Damien.
“And when will I see you again?”
“In another life!”
It’s the walk home, with his neighbor Christophe (Pierre Benezit), that changes Damien’s life. He blindly strolls into a street sign so hard he knocks himself out. When he wakes up, the paramedic (a woman) is checking him out. Christophe is worried.
And the sign, directing us to the famous Paris Pere Lachaise (Father Lachaise) Cemetery? It’s now called Mere (Mother) Lachaise. Women, brazenly and uninvited, flirt from their cars. And when he wakes up in the morning, there’s nothing in his closet but colorful, revealing and suggestive shorts, shirts, “too tight” pants and sweatpants.
Before the morning is done, he’s realized that the one woman in that conference room at work is now the boss, that women are in ALL the decision-making positions at his ad agency. That boss has crudely come-on to him, asking for oral sex. And when he’s bristled and lashed out at this “parallel world” he finds himself in, he’s fired.
Christophe is no longer the author. He’s the author’s assistant. Alexandra the assistant is now the star writer, aggressive, assertive and entitled — sure that her Jaguar convertible will impress the boys.
Co-writer/director Eleonore Pourriat is also an actress, and she was even on the Louis C.K. series “Louis.” So yeah, you can guess she’s got stories to tell, and a point of view.
“I Am Not an Easy Man” –the title uses “easy” in that “Easy A” or “Earth Girls are Easy” sense — gives Damien and the viewer comic whiplash, dropping him into a world where women call the shots, and have since time immemorial. Their clothing is masculinized, their aggression and assertiveness is built into their thinking. Even the aged, the homely figure they’ve got the right and indeed the obligation to “make the first move.”
Just. Like. Men.
Damien hooks up with one of his friends-with-benefits, who rejects him because he’s got too much body hair down there, “like a monkey.” Time for the boys (Christophe) to get together for a waxing session.
Men endure belittlement, discrimination, intellectual dismissal, brutish/selfish/dominating sex, ogling, catcalls and harassment and strip clubs where lithe, athletic men are the pole dancers. Boys headed off to high school wear belly-baring shirts and short shorts, objectified since birth.
Naturally, they organize. The women don’t have much patience for their “Masculist Groups,” and Alexandra’s next book pitch was going to be about “the myth of female dominance.” Until she takes up with Damien and her publisher thinks his “men in charge” delusion would make for hilarious reading.
I laughed and laughed at this thing, a film of wry, knowing giggles whose director knows where to stick the knife. As it’s on Netflix, you don’t have to read subtitles. It’s available as dubbed into English (check your audio settings).
But in any language, “I Am Not an Easy Man” works, an over-reaching satire that gets at the horrors women face in a world where they don’t have equality or the entitled initiative to succeed and a film that suggests God help us if the shoe is ever on the other foot.
MPAA Rating: unrated, with sex scenes, a fist fight
Credits:Directed by Eleonore Pourriat, script by Ariane Fert and Eleonore Pourriat. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:38