For as low of a score that this film carries, I hand to confirm that I had watched the same film. For some strange reason, I witnessed a completely different film than the one mentioned from other critics. I thoroughly enjoyed this French farce that was boldly colorful, imaginatively creative, and passionately contrived. While I did find it at times hard to read the subtitles and see the action together, I did not see it as a completely spoiled moment for the film. The comedy was quick, the plot was well rounded, and I especially loved the characters that director Jean-Marie Poiré brought to the screen. It was so wonderfully absurd that it kept me glued to the screen wondering what would happen next. I will admit that this is a rather predictable film, but what Poiré has done is taken a used story and restyled the "fun" fit in this modern day of cinema. This suddenly transformed into a zany adventure that kept my head buzzing, my mind engrossed, and my funny bones in action.
The best part of this film is simply the characters. There are two power-players in this film that each bring something unique and original to the screen and ultimately make Ma femme...s'appelle Maurice worth watching. The first is the hysterical Régis Laspalès whom nearly steals the entire film away from everyone else. He takes the role of Maurice and transforms it into a modern day Robin Williams vehicle. From the moment that I meet him in a little bread shoppe until the final climactic moments, I was captured. He controlled the screen with such brilliance and pizzazz that I was surprised that I had not encountered him in any other films. He was genuine, which is sometimes a hard asset to find in comedians today. The second character that I deeply enjoyed was Gotz Otto. He plays the possibly sexually confused Johnny that gets some drink into him and falls for the closest lady to him. That just happens to be Maurice. Together, these two play superbly well against each other. Their chemistry is better than some matches found in Hollywood today. I could feel their moments clicking from across the screen and to my delight it worked. They were extremely funny together adding an extra layer of icing to an already hysterically sugary film.
Another aspect that I truly felt compelled about in this film was the colors set against the backdrop of the whimsical adventure. I think I have been involved in too many darkly grey films lately here in America, and it was finally nice to see the bold and vibrant colors of life clearly defined on the screen. The hues of red, yellow, and orange perfectly decorated not just the surroundings, but also the characters as well. I think that is some of the reason for the amazing performances, because of the colorful environment that they had to work in. The colors brightened the sets, but also this film. At times it nearly felt like a fairy tale film (with the colors and magic castle feel that the apartment had), especially with the color of love painted in nearly every scene. Poiré knew what he was doing, and while this is definitely no Amelie, it does show the colorful cinematic technique that the French have so proudly called their own.
So, we have some very funny characters combined with some beautiful sets that seem to be used to accentuate the characters (Hollywood, you could be taking notes here), what else was there? I enjoyed the themes of this film. For anyone that enjoyed Mrs. Doubtfire and The Birdcage (and the French counterpart), this is the film for you to see. It combines the ideals of homosexuality with a farce about life. It brings these ideas of cross-dressing and gender swapping into a very colorful light that will make you think and laugh at the same time. This is not a negative aspect, but rather a very poignant element that Poiré chose to add to this film. He could have simply gone main stream, but the elements that he chose to uses were brilliant. Coupled with some random moments that make this film stand on its own two legs (the entire chainsaw scene was hysterical and very random), My Wife Maurice is a comedy that will have you laughing for a very long time.
Overall, I was very impressed. This was a gem that I had never heard about that graced my DVD player well. The overall feel of this film was happiness and whimsy, and it was exactly what I needed at the end of the day. While it is not a flawless film, the problems are so small that you probably wouldn't even notice them if you tried. Do not just look at these negative markings as a sign that this is a poor film, check it out for yourself, and you may find (like me) that this was a perfect comedy.
Grade: **** out of *****