If Netflix had a corporate sense of humor, they’d offer all three versions of this French comedy/melodrama on the service at the same time.
“Nothing to Hide (Le jeu)” is a remake of an Italian film “Perfetti sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers).” I reviewed the Mexican version of this last year — “Perfectos Desconocidos” it is called.
They all use the same set-up, a friendly dinner party that goes awry when they decide to plop their cell phones in the middle of the table and read the next text, share the next emailed photo or put on speaker phone the next call each person gets.
A backhanded slap at global cell-phone obsessions? Sure. But the overt message is “Do you really want to know what your friends/relatives/spouse/children are up to behind your back?”
The French version, adapted by French action specialist Fred Cavayé (“Point Blank,” and he scripted the Russell Crowe thriller “The Next Three Days”) shows its melodramatic touches just as clumsily. But this is probably the funniest of the three versions of this, with pranks thrown in to the night of Life’s Most Embarrassing Moments.
Every one of the seven folks sitting down to dinner at the home of doctors Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and Vincent (Stéphane De Groodt) has something they’re keeping from their significant other their friends.
One guest slips into the bathroom to step out of her panties, more than one is fielding texts that they wouldn’t want anybody to see, one is the confidante of the about-to-turn-sexually active daughter in the family, one is job hunting and freshly divorced, and on down the line.
And on this night of a lunar eclipse, “not for the superstitious” a radio announcer assures us, weird things might be afoot. Mistrust is just the biggest one.
That’s how this cellular “truth or dare” begins. And from this reminder call about a surgery or that persistent series of texts or calls from this boss or that “colleague,” things veer from simply embarrassing to jaw-dropping humiliations.
The occasional prank, tossed into the mix, can either heighten the hilarity or send somebody to their divorce lawyer.
The machinery of this time-tested plot is out in the open, but Cavayé does a decent job distracting us from the gears we can see are about to turn, the nuts and bolts that might come off at any moment.
Lighter running gags include surgeon and would-be chef Vincent’s “with a twist” takes on classic French cuisine. Preparing foie gras with milk? Broccoli puree? “Warm” oysters with squid ink?
The cast splits the workload equally, with Bejo (“The Artist,” “A Knight’s Tale”), Suzanne Clément and Roschdy Zem (“Days of Glory”) making the strongest impressions.
I think I laughed hardest at the very French ways the guests dodged this course of that one, and how to a one they dive into the cheese plate at the end like starvation victims.
The framework here seems a tad clumsier, and the “eclipse” touch sets us up for the most obvious “twist” of all.
But “Nothing to Hide” still manages to amuse and surprise just enough to warrant all those payments to Paolo Genovese, the Italian filmmaker who conceived this easily-translated entertainment in the first place.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, alcohol, profanity, mild violence
Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Suzanne Clément, Stéphane De Groodt, Vincent Elbaz, Grégory Gadebois, Doria Tillier and Roschdy Zem
Credits: Scripted and directed by Fred Cavayé, based on the Italian film “Perfetti sconosciuti Perfect Strangers).” A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:30