Written and Directed by Quentin Dupieux.
Starring Grégoire Ludig, David Marsais, Adèle Exarchopoulos, India Hair, Bruno Lochet, Coralie Russier, Roméo Elvis, Raphaël Quenard, Philippe Dusseau, Jean-Paul Solal, and Jézabel Marques.
Two simple-minded friends discover a giant fly in the trunk of a car and decide to domesticate it to earn money with it.
Mandibles is an especially off-kilter ode to friendship that suggests routinely idiosyncratic writer and director Quentin Dupieux (you may not know the name, but I’m sure you know Rubber, the movie about a killer car tire or perhaps one of his recent works Deerskin, about a murderous jacket) that deviates from part of that equation in that it’s lighthearted and weirdly positive. The film follows deadbeat and dimwitted friends Manu and Jean-Gab (Grégoire Ludig and Dafydd Marsias, respectively, on key with the hilarious deadpan comedic delivery the filmmaker is known for), accepting a job to pick up a briefcase from a client and to deliver it to another.
It’s a simple job with a hefty reward of 500 euros. The only problem is these bozos (they are very much the French equivalent of Dumb and Dumber, one of my all-time favorite comedies, which partly explains my adoration for this strange experience) don’t actually have a car to travel from destination to destination (and by extension, a trunk to put the briefcase in which they treat as a crucial literal rule), leaving Jean-Gab to steal and hotwire a parked vehicle. This car turns out to have an overgrown fly in the trunk (created with practical rubber effects) that doesn’t freak the duo out. No, they see an opportunity to seize.
Initially panicking that they won’t complete the job, Manu is not on board with aborting the mission until Jean-Gab starts explaining his brilliant idea to domesticate the creature and teach it how to rob stores and banks. Obviously, this is a stupid scheme that makes about as much sense as how many things can and do go wrong, but there’s a charm in the sense that the bond they share is humorous, harmless, and sincere. It’s like watching two best friends play with a new dog and seeing what tricks it can learn, but accidentally burning things down (no one gets hurt) or walking into the hostility of a wealthy woman’s vacation home that turns out to be the perfect spot for training the fly that comes to be named Dominique.
The surprise about Mandibles turns out to be that Manu and Jean-Gab aren’t the only idiots here, with Cécile (India Hair) playing a carefree woman that has such an extensive history of sexual activity (absolutely no judgment, it’s something stated about her character) she is under the impression that Manu is someone she slept with in high school, therefore inviting the friends into the aforementioned luxury abode. Also, a relative named Agnes (frequent Quentin Dupieux collaborator Adèle Exarchopoulos) suffers from brain damage at the hands of a jet ski-related incident that now causes her to shout everything she says. It was always a given that Mandibles would have oddball characters, but Dominique the fly seems to be the most normal of the bunch.
On that note, there is some subversion in that Dominique is mostly kept off-camera unless he is learning how to play fetch, not killing everything in sight. Manu and Jean-Gab bumble their way through living the high life while trying not to have their real identities found out as they continue training and putting the master plan into motion. The humor is often absurd and unapologetically non-politically correct (there are various uses of the R word, and some might find an issue with a brain-damaged character being the butt of some dark but admittedly clever gags). Some stretches are funnier than others, and it’s all a little slight when it comes to anything besides jokes (It also feels like more could have been done with Dominique), but there’s always an air of unpredictability right up until the outrageously perfect climax.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com