English Title: Reinventing Marvin
Original Title: Marvin ou la belle éducation
Language: French, English
Director: Anne Fontaine
Writers: Anne Fontaine, Pierre Trividic
Cinematography: Yves Angelo
A Bildungsroman of a French gay boy hailed from the slurb, young Marvin Bijoux (Porier) is bullied in the school ostensibly for his effeminate mien (which doesn’t click with this reviewer, he is merely a sensitive, handsome boy), not to mention that his family name “bijoux” doesn’t help to generate much masculinity in him.
Director Anne Fontaine nails the toxic milieu where Marvin grows up, a blue-collar family rigged up by Dany and Odile Bijoux (Gadebois and Salée), both married before, their union is a rambunctious skein of bickering, cussing and negligence where physical violence can crop up at the drop of a hat. Marvin stands out like a sore thumb both in the school and at home, only through the perspicacity of the new school principal Ms. Clément (Mouchet, a patiently saintly figure whose decorous appearance we cannot get enough of), he finds his bent for acting when he joins an improv student group.
Alternating to and fro from Marvin the teenager to Marvin the adult (Oldfield), whose pursuance of an acting vocation comes across with a minted sugar daddy Roland (Berling), a gay author Abel Pinto (Macaigne) and the world-renown French actress Isabelle Huppert herself, who will vouchsafe him her appearance in his breakthrough fringe theatrical work, extracted from his own wretched childhood with high fidelity, REINVENTING MARVIN freewheels with a discursive rhythm that doesn’t necessarily pinpoints the two narrative’s interrelations, and as brilliant as a young Porier maxes out Marvin’s striking presence of mind with precocious introspection, a beady-eyed Oldfield errs on the side of Marvin’s pensiveness, nigh on a faintly repulsing air of narcissism.
When Marvin Bijoux finally morphs into Martin Clément, a quite banal name he chooses to sever the tie with his piteous past, Fontaine unleashes her quarter in concocting excuses for Martin’s parents, while Odile obliviously pleads that the household has always been a happy one and they are not homophobic (does she forget the verbal abuse happening right under their grotty roof? or in her senses, that doesn’t count for homophobia?), Dany, remarried after he and Odile finally fed up with each other, rekindles an amicable relationship with Martin and accepts his sexuality, but ostensibly after he finds out that at least one of his children has done something extraordinary enough to be printed on the newspaper, one can only assume that Fontaine knows humanity all too well, but in afterthought, a reconciliation built chiefly upon fulfilled vanity doesn’t taste good. Although Fontaine’s work is, as one might suspect, high on Gallic sophistication quotient, cunningly insinuating the hypocrisy of a peckerwood family after portraying its existence as a hellhole is just too mean-spirited to meet substantive pats on its back.