“Stuck Together (Huit Rue de l’Humanite)” is a hit-and-miss French farce about a Paris apartment building’s efforts to cope with the COVID lockdown.
Packed with characters and co-scripted by its co-stars, director and comedian Danny Boon and his life partner, Laurence Arné, it’s not nearly funny enough to sustain its patience-testing two-hours+ run time. But the scattered laughs will ring true to many a lockdown survivor, and the moments of sentiment are so poignant that they could bring you to tears.
Arné and Boon play Claire and Martin, a married couple with a tweenage girl, Louna (Rose de Kervenoaël) bracing for the worst as COVID-19 shuts down France. Well, he is.
Martin’s an illustrator for a medical journal, and something of a paranoid hypochondriac.
While attorney Claire is maintaining her sanity as she adjusts to lawyering on Zoom and home schooling their kid, Martin is flipping out — over the masks shortage, over having to go out and walk their dog, over other people’s seeming carelessness in the face of this pandemic with possible terminal consequences.
His “We CAN’T walk the dog now! (in French with subtitles, or dubbed into English)” is scaring their little girl. Doesn’t matter. Martin cleans and cleans, takes DEEP whiffs of disinfectant as he does (hilarious touch) and like everybody else, badgers their apartment building’s super, Diego (Jose Calvo).
Martin’s only concern on hearing Diego’s wife is in hospital with the virus is “You’re asymptomatic?”
“No, I’m Catholic. But religion isn’t for everyone.”
Tony (François Damiens) is a boorish, gauche bakery entrepreneur who, our narrator (his tween son, played by Milo Machado Graner) assures us, “is ROOTING for COVID!” Tony likes the idea of “old people” dying off, and has his eye on elderly Louise (Liliane Rovère), or more specifically, on the bar she owns downstairs. He’d love to get his hands on that if the old lady kicks it.
It’s no wonder that Tony’s wife fled to the country with no interest in ever returning. Let him raise their son, who crushes on Louna across the way, and their bratty teen daughter.
Agathe (Alison Wheeler) is a singer-songwriter whom nobody remembers from “the 2016 season of (the French version of) ‘The Voice.'” She’s constantly picking at a pandemic song so she can load it up on the Internet and return to (limited) fame. Her hunky, popular online exercise guru husband Samuel (Tom Lee) could help. But he’s busy keeping his pregnant wife out of his streaming shots of his exercise routines. Got to keep his female followers/exercisers in the dark and on the hook, after all.
There’s a mysterious tenant nobody knows, and a wild-haired medical testing lab scientist Gabriel (Yvan Attal) whose urine-test business is downstairs. He sets out to develop his own vaccine, looking for lab animals (pets included) as test subjects. His neighbors all look to him for masks, COVID tests (with a nasal swab the length of a semi-truck’s dipstick) and answers.
“We don’t know…We don’t know…We don’t know” he repeats, taking us back to the earliest, most paranoid days of the illness.
None of them knew one another before the lockdown. Well, young Basile knew who Louna was, even if she barely knew he existed. He shares the same name as her dog, which lands exactly one laugh.
“She’s my girlfriend. But don’t TELL her that!”
The laughs chiefly come from Boon (“Micmacs,””Joyeux Noel,” “Welcome to the Sticks”) and his hyper-ventilating Martin, and Damiens, who is blessed with sight gags and boorish COVID denying lines aplenty as Tony runs roughshod over Diego — worried sick about his wife and forced to cope with more and more odd jobs from the apartment dwellers — and his fellow tenants.
“So, two idiots in China eat a penguin and this stairwell becomes your pantry?” he quips to Martin, who pushes his cleaning to an extreme.
“It’s a PANGOLIN, Dad!”
Martin gets so carried away he locks his “I have to go to prison to visit my client” wife out of their apartment. He’s so clueless that when the gorgeous Claire comes on to him, his first worry is “You’re HOT!”
No. Better break out the thermometer pistol.
Physical comedy translates easiest when you’re looking to make an “international” hit, but there’s precious little of that. Some of the one-liners and running gags (the French find the name “Basil” funnier than much of the rest of the world) may play better on French Netflix.
But there’s no getting around that this somewhat claustrophobic comedy — the “one big set” is reminiscent of Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”) — is awfully thin on good jokes for a movie this long.
The dollops of heart — remembering the worry, facing loss and those nightly open window pan-banging celebrations of heroic front-line pandemic medical and service sector workers — play better. And there aren’t enough of those to put this movie over.
Rating: TV-MA, profanity, adult situations
Cast: Danny Boon, Laurence Arné, François Damiens, Alison Wheeler, Milo Machado Graner,
Rose de Kervenoaël, Yvan Atal, Tom Lee, Jose Carvo and Liliane Rovère
Credits: Directed by Dany Boon, scripted by Laurence Arné and Dany Boon, A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:05