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The Chateau (R)
IFC Films
Official Site
Director: Jesse Peretz
Producers: Scott Macauley, Robin O’Hara
Written by: Jesse Peretz
Cast: Paul Rudd, Romany Malco, Sylvie Testud, Didier Flamand, Philippe Nalton, Maria Verdi, Donal Logue

Rating: out of 5

Did a Count ever leave you an incredibly beautiful castle in the middle of nowhere France? And then did you travel by train with your adopted antithetical brother to visit your newly acquired estate? No? Really? Me neither.

In The Chateau, Graham (Rudd) and Allen “a.k.a. Rex” Granville (Malco) are two mismatched brothers who journey to southern France to place a visible claim on an aging provincial castle that they have unexpectedly inherited from their deceased uncle, a Count. The digitally filmed movie is directed by Jesse Peretz, who collaborated on the “Jimmy the Cabdriver” commercials for MTV, and is notably a former member of the Evan Dando-helmed music group The Lemonheads. In the film, which is also written by Peretz, the characters of Rex and Graham share no physical resemblance, which causes tons of confusion upon their arrival at the castle. Graham is white and Rex is black, and they both have difficulty elucidating the concept of adoption in their broken French. Language, cultural, and familial barriers aside, on the whole The Chateau brings out a few instances of lighthearted fun, but is definitely a house that you want to rent, not inherit as a long-term asset.

Plotwise, the servants who remain at the castle are less than welcoming, almost vacantly dismissive of the Americans’ presence. Adding another ouch to the blow, the supercilious throws insult after non-understood insult their way. The brothers, however, barely notice as they become sidetracked by the young French maid Isabelle (Testud) who innocently captures their eyes, but surreptitiously hides pertinent information concerning the house. The brothers, given hints by the employees that the crumbling castle is a ruin waiting to happen, decide, via various arguments full of differing opinions, to sell the estate and profit from their situation.

In addition to the film’s initial credibility factor, the mid-section failed to hold my interest. Perhaps it was the countless shenanigans pulled by servant Pierre (Nalton) that came across as situationally unnecessary, or the constant sideways glances perpetrated by the butler Jean (Flamand). Either way, I began to feel that their characters were a little too cheeky. They don’t want the rude Americans to take the house away from them. We get it. Thankfully, the advent of prospective buyer, Sonny (played by Donal Logue a.k.a. Jimmy the Cabdriver, and currently the father on TV’s “Grounded for Life”) piqued my attention in the latter third of the film, and the rest of the movie was consequently more interesting.

On an up note, Graham’s character is reminiscent of the adorably precocious four-year-old brother I never had the pleasure of mentoring. Much of this is due to Rudd’s ability to bring out subtle, childish mannerisms to convey Graham’s man-boy status. More than that, his use of accented English in pursuit of finding a quasi-similar French word is endearing and veers successfully away from triteness. He’s a therapy driven, flip-flop wearing, vegan optimist, whereas Rex contrastingly dominates as the cynical, business-driven, $300-shoe-wearing, penis product entrepreneur/brother. As Rex, Malco delivers a crafty performance, and the chemistry between the non-biologically related brothers eventually convinced me that the two could have fallen from the same tree.

Regardless of whether you decide to finance a mortgage on The Chateau or just hike on out of the microcosmic culture-clashing film after two hours, I still find myself in the position of harbinger for those yet to see the film. But all I can say is caveat emptor. Or maybe that should be, Vive la France! Whatever, personally, some parts just seemed a little too Clue for me.

—Sandra M. Ogle


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