The Chateau

on August 09, 2002 by Chris Wiegand
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   Directed and co-written by Jesse Peretz, a former NYU student who cut his teeth on commercials and pop promos before making his feature debut with 1998's “First Love, Last Rites,” “The Château” is a farcical, partly autobiographical, and frequently hilarious comedy charting the adventures of an odd couple abroad.

   Two adopted Americans, Rex (“The Prime Gig's” Romany Malco) and Graham (Paul Rudd, in a welcome lead after supporting turns in “The Cider House Rules” and “Reaching Normal”), receive the news that they have inherited a château in a remote region of the south of France. Traveling together to Europe to assess their inheritance, they slowly become better acquainted. Rex is black and lives in Los Angeles; Graham is white and from Kansas. The château is probably the only thing they have in common besides their familial connections. When the brothers arrive to see it in all its decrepit glory, they are shocked to find a full team of servants still living there. The solution to the scenario seems simple enough to each of them at first but when they both fall for the pretty maid Sabine (“Karnaval's” Sylvie Testud), things start to become less clear.

   Shot on DV and set in drizzly climes, “The Château” is never really much to look at and relies primarily on the performances of the leads for its impact. Thankfully, these are all first-rate--boosted by Peretz and Bidegain's script and the director's promotion of on-set improvisation. The familiar fish-out-of-water scenario may be a simple one, but to his credit Peretz succeeds in delivering scene after scene of communication breakdown without ever seeming repetitive. The dialogue is priceless--particularly the subtitles for Graham's gaffe-laden brand of Franglais--and Nathan Larson and Patrick Bartosch's score keeps things moving along merrily. Starring Paul Rudd, Sylvie Testud, Romany Malco and Didier Flamand. Directed by Jesse Peretz. Written by Jesse Peretz and Thomas Bidegain. Produced by Robin O'Hara and Scott Macaulay. No distributor set. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 89 min

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