It takes some doing to make a movie about a talking fridge boring, but by gum, Benoît Forgeard’s messy comedy manages to pull it off.
This review is part of our coverage of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
I like to think of myself as having reasonable expectations, but when it comes to this year’s Cannes, I wasn’t consciously prepared for a movie about a talking fridge. Nothing really is off the tables here, and that’d also be the case for aspiring rapper Jerem (William Lebghil), whose freeloader tendencies take precedence in his lyrics. Masturbation, sex, food, sex, masturbation, shacking up in his dead grandmother’s house until he can get some cash together—it’s all the same as long as he can get something in his grubby little paws.
After all, this is the type of guy whose most productive decision is ordering a new fridge. But it isn’t just any fridge, oh, no, no: it’s a Friobot named Yves (voiced by Philippe Katerine), a sort of Alexa/Siri hybrid who’s more advanced in backtalk than anything else. Apparently, it’s the answer to his bro-iest dreams too, seeing as how this talking box draws in the attention of a corporate type named So (Doria Tillier) who works for the company responsible for these smart-fridges.
“I like your beats,” she says for no explicable reason. Her sudden orbiting of Jerem would imply some sort of ulterior motives in most movies—it’s the only real explanation for her total lack of judgment—but Yves is so preoccupied with its male fantasy to procure any real sense of momentum. Even its clearest intentions feel more like regurgitations of parody works than outright parodies or homages in and of themselves. Specificity might be one thing, but contrast is the real test of absurdist comedy.
It’s an inherently bonkers premise that manages to feel banal.
Needless to say, Benoît Forgeard’s film doesn’t have much of that. Even from the beginning as the camera glosses over Yves’s creation intercuts to Jerem’s home, the establishing stoner vibes aren’t so much early Kevin Smith as mid-2000s studio comedies. The crass humor, on the other hand, isn’t edgy or offensive. It’s simply dated, save for a few instances of clever wordplay. (The most notable aspect of Yves’s writing isn’t the writing itself but how neatly it translates from French to English.)
It may sound ridiculous, but this premise does have the potential to mesh its literacy into something a bit more memorable. Think of John Waters’ A Dirty Shame but with fridges instead of food. Sounds nutty, right? In Yves’s case, it’s a last-ditch opportunity to put audiences into a conundrum, and it still plays with more of a shrug than a shock. The title character himself may point towards some sort of Michel Gondry-type spoof as well, but as Yves starts to ghostwrite Jerem’s most successful raps yet, themes of man versus machine don’t coalesce.
Its later moments would pass as okay on an online sketch, but they seem stuck in neutral in a 105-minute feature. And that’s what lots of Yves feels like: neutral. It’s an inherently bonkers premise that manages to feel banal. It isn’t even specific to the structure (since it’s so rooted in French absurdity that its intentions are palpable), but it’s the repetition and lack of focus that prevents any real establishment of the film’s world, rendering the later stretches oddly complacent.
From a writing standpoint, Forgeard doesn’t shift well between sex comedy and dad jokes. From a visual standpoint, he and regular DP Thomas Favel never break away from a cheap, disengaging style. Lebghil does an okay job at playing Jerem as pathetically as possible, but that isn’t enough to undo just how obnoxiously Foregard writes him. Everything functions as complementary to our protagonist. If he’s less than a bro-y banshee, the world seems a little more saturated around him. That simply doesn’t happen most of the time here.