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.
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