Movie #200 The Dinner Game
(1998, France, d. Francis Veber)
Remade into the (what I hear to be) atrocious Steve Carell/Paul Rudd comedy Dinner for Schmucks, The Dinner Game is a smart comedy – one that relies on its numerous set-ups and smart dialogue to carry the unbelievable and mean premise. The French title, Le Diner de Cons, translates literally into “The Dinner of Idiots”. The story: every manager of a certain office must bring an “idiot” to a weekly dinner. The one who brings the most entertaining idiot is crowned the winner. It’s the kind of set-up that makes the audience immediately hate the protagonist, who is very active in his search for the idiot. However, the writing here is what the saves the film. A bit slapstick, a bit melodramatic, and a good dose of fun, this very short-running film manages to capture a complete arc to an absolutely hated character through hilarious gags and unique scenarios. Using minimal sets (there must have been only 3 major sets in the film), characters, and action, Veber tells an intriguing story – terrible, yes, but intriguing. The best part of the film, apart from the screenplay though, is the acting. Jacques Villeret, who plays the idiot Mr. Pignon, is exceptional here. He does best here what reminds me of what one of my favorite actors (Song Kang-Ho from South Korea) does best: convey an honest portrayal of a dumb person – not to any extreme but to a very realistic level, one that often comes with flashes of brilliance. Winner of Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay at the prestigious Cesar Awards, The Dinner Game is short, sweet, and very well-written.