An exasperated Monaco developer wants to teach his lazy, insufferable “Spoiled Brats” a lesson by pretending they’ve lost it all in what turns out to be a tepid remake of the Mexican comedy “We Are the Nobles.”
It’s a plot the predates the screwball Hollywood comedies of the ’30s, the idea of the rich being brought low and figuring out they’re not any better than the rest of us by becoming “the rest of us.” Despite scoring a few laughs at the expense of the louche, lazy louts of the Batek clan, the lesson to be taught is watered town, the “teachable moments” a mere string of pulled punches. It feels as if several of the story’s necessary steps have been skipped.
In gambling terms, in trying to switch up this “classic” formula, writer-director Nicholas Cuche left a lot of laughs at the table.
Gérard Jugnot stars as patriarch Francis, one of Monaco’s wealthiest builders. There’s a hint he’s largely self-made, a Polish emigrant who worked his way to riches. But his kids had no such struggle. Aside from losing their mother young, the vain clothes-horse Stella (Camille Lou), free-spending, free-eating Philippe (Artus) and hippy womanizer Alexandre (Louka Meliava) wanted for nothing.
To a one they’re rude, selfish and naive to the way the world works and where the money always comes from.
Dad’s heart-attack scare — over Stella’s shallow pursuit of an Argentine playboy (Tom Leeb), Philippe’s idiotic idea for an app/company that has employees wear and break-in your pricy shoes for you and Alexandre’s bedding of not just the wife of his latest university president, but the man’s daughter as well, and in Francis’s mountainside mansion — should be a wake up call.
Two months later, his scheme goes into motion. Their accounts are locked, the house is raided, the Ferraris and Lambos impounded and the kids whisked away by their father, who admits the “fraud squad” is on his tail.
He takes them to a long-abandoned family villa, tosses their cell phones and says they must lay low until he can straighten all this out. But as none of them have any money and he’d be recognized, even in Marseilles, they’ll have to go out and find jobs.
After a tirade of insults –“Fat ISN’T an insult! “No? Neither is MORON!” — they are sent out into the world, babes in the marketplace, selling their idle lives as “qualifications” for jobs they and no one else feels they deserve.
Portly Philippe winds up pedaling a pedicab. Stella — waited on hand and food her entire life — is taken on as a waitress at a restaurant where side-hustle servant Matthias (Joffrey Verbruggen).
Well, he sleeps in, declares ” I refuse to let myself be exploited!” (all of this is in French with English subtitles) and tries to live off the land, “to take what nature (freely) gives.” Right.
Dad will stay in and fix up the old house, suggesting “I’ve fed you your entire lives. Now it’s your turn!” Alexandre will eventually join Dad in his re-plastering, re-plumbing and painting project.
Each will learn what it’s like to be on the other end of that indulged master-servant lifestyle to which they’re grown accustomed.
Only they don’t. Not really.
Cuche’s script shortchanges each character, so that Stella’s lesson, the most complete, is barely work an “incomplete” grade. There’s a tiny bit of learning and virtually no struggle.
The “obvious” directions this could have gone — Phillipe pedaling himself into shape, Alexandre contributing to society rather than leeching off it, Stella getting down off her high horse and seeing through her gold-digging fiance, are either discarded as ideas or soft-sold.
There’s precious little that’s funny in any of it as the story takes its big “Let’s do things REALLY different” turn in the third act.
Lou (of several French TV series and the movie “Play”) has the most screen time and most promising character arc. The script lets her down.
The single-named Artus has a few funny moments and the most interesting “his real talent” revelation in Phillippe. But so much of that is skipped over we can’t figure out how exactly he’s managing his “transition.”
It’s all gaudy and glitzy enough, with lovely Monaco scenery — Lamborghinis for all! — as its backdrop.
But our filmmaker seems to have been seduced by all that and forgotten his point, if he ever had one. What fun is taking away the rich’s money if they don’t “learn” from the experience?
Rating: TV-14, sex without nudity
Cast: Gérard Jugnot, Camille Lou, Artus, Louka Meliava, Tom Leeb and François Morel
Credits: Scripted and directed by Nicolas Cuche, based on the Mexican comedy “We Are the Nobles,” director and story by Gary Alazaraki. by A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:35