My Worst Nightmare (Mon Pire Cauchemar)
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Here in North America, writer/director Anne Fontaine is probably best known for her 2009 Coco Chanel biopic, Coco Before Chanel, a strikingly beautiful but emotionally cold and distant drama. But if that’s what you’re expecting from Fontaine’s latest film, you’ll be in for quite a shock—because the only thing that’s cold and distant (or even the slightest bit serious) about My Worst Nightmare (Mon Pire Cauchemar) is its lead character.

Isabelle Huppert stars as straight-laced Agathe, who runs a prestigious art gallery and lives a perfectly average existence in an above-average flat with her partner, François (André Dussollier), and their son. On the outside, they seem like the perfect family: rich, successful, and well-adjusted. But their stable, secure lives are shaken up forever when they meet struggling single dad Patrick (Benoît Poelvoorde).

Patrick left Belgium for France to find a better life for himself and his son, Tony (Corentin Devroey)—but the underemployed party animal is more interested in women than work, so he and Tony are constantly on the run from Child Services.

Intrigued by outspoken, no-nonsense Patrick, François hires him to renovate their flat. While François is charmed by his new working-class friend, though, Agathe hates everything about him. But Patrick’s presence in their home soon begins to change the way they see themselves and each other.

While Coco Before Chanel was the kind of reserved drama that was careful to keep its audience at an arm’s length, My Worst Nightmare is the kind of movie that greets you with a bear hug and an unexpected smack on the rear end. It’s unexpectedly jovial, amusingly irreverent, and sometimes even completely wacky, with nearly non-stop laughs.

All three of the main characters—played by three of France’s most beloved stars—are a delight to watch. Dussollier’s François is like a kid who’s been let loose in a candy store once he meets Patrick and is inspired to go out and enjoy life. And Poelvoorde is absolutely hilarious as the crass carpenter with a devil-may-care attitude. He loves booze and fast women (the fatter and uglier, the better), and he’ll speak his (somewhat addled) mind to anyone and everyone. He’s perfectly paired with Huppert, whose straight-laced, black-and-white demeanor only makes him all the more wild and crazy and wonderfully colorful. And when Huppert’s Agathe finally decides to let her hair down a bit, it turns the movie into a fun-filled comedic free-for-all.

There’s nothing particularly deep or meaningful or profound about My Worst Nightmare. It won’t make you feel smarter or more sophisticated for having watched it—though it may remind you of the importance of letting loose and enjoying life. But it’s definitely an entertaining ride—and an unexpectedly side-splitting treat from Huppert and Fontaine.

Ed. Note: Kristin screened My Worst Nightmare at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Be sure to check your local listings to find out if/when it’s coming to a theater near you.

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