Merci Docteur Rey

on September 17, 2004 by Kim Williamson
A Merchant Ivory production made in 2001 and till now unreleased stateside for what, quickly and sadly, become obvious reasons, "Merci Docteur Rey" tells the comic story--at least, comedy was the intention--of a young gay Parisian named Thomas (Stanislas Merhar) whose American opera diva mother, Elisabeth (the usually pitch-perfect Dianne Wiest), has hid from him for years that his father Bob (Simon Callow, notching his sixth Merchant Ivory credit) had left her for a gay man. That would be the same father who Thomas, whose secret search for sex has oddly led him to a stranger's closet, has just seen killed. Not knowing it was his father, or who the assailant was, or that his mother somehow figures in all this, yet needing to confess what he's seen, Thomas finds his way to the psychiatric office of one Dr. Rey. Except it's not really Dr. Rey to whom he speaks, Dr. Rey being dead of a heart attack under her desk, but a longtime patient, Penelope (veteran French Jane Birkin), who believes her cruel words has killed Dr. Rey, and so has impersonated the physician to the newcomer in an attempt to hide her crime.

One gets the feeling that the pros involved here decided to "just have fun for once" and ignore such boring old storytelling rules as narrative flow and tone. The over-the-top result is that audiences are likely to be saying "merci" when the film is over, if not seeking a docteur for indigestion. In this comedy of murder, there is exactly one laugh, involving a dress and wallpaper, which is one more than there is of a real human moment or emotion. How the producer of so many fine films as "Howards End" and director of several good films of his own, like "The Proprietor," could have helped gestate such movie malarkey is hard to fathom. Starring Dianne Wiest, Jane Birkin and Stanislas Merhar. Directed and written by Andrew Litvack. Produced by Rahila Bootwala and Nathalie Gastaldo. A Regent release. Comedy. Rated R for language including sexual references, and some drug use. Running time: 92 min

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