Sunday, May 22, 2016
'French Postcards' BD: Two Guys and A Girl Study Abroad
Regular Unreal TV readers know of the related great love of this site for both Olive Films and the '80s movies and art-house films that comprise most of the Olive DVD and Blu-ray catalog (and that justify the Olive slogan "Cinema Lives Here.") An example of this include the recent highly favorable review for the Olive Blu-ray release of the 1982 Scot Baio/Willie Aames comedy "Zapped."
This affinity for the fruit of the Olive garden makes not loving the May 24, 2016 Blu-ray release of the dramedy "French Postcards" painful. The better news is that literally sleepless reflection reveals that the not-so-fatal flaws of "Postcards" stem from the not-so-inspired casting and less-than-stellar (and largely absent) background music that does not set the proper mood.
The better news is that the better portions of "Postcards" are funny because they are true, Up-close observation of an '80s-era camp director in a romantic relationship with a co-director/vile tyrant/modern-day college professor (whose name conveniently rhymes with "penis") bedding a young blond stud who essentially is her farmhand shows that that kind of thing truly occurs.
"Postcards" depicts the adventures and misadventures of American college students in the year-long program at the Paris-based "Institute of French Studies." Good humor relates to nasty Institute owner M. Tessier and his slightly more reputable wife/co-head Mme. Tessier having disdain for their students that rivals the greed of the couple for the tuition dollars of the students.
The overall vibe of "Postcards" is that it is one of the very special season-premiere episodes of '70s and '80s sitcoms that have the characters travel to an exotic location only to have a madcap adventure. "The Facts of Life Go to Paris" is the most relevant example with the episode in which the Keatons of "Family Ties" travel to England when elder son Alex gets a chance to study abroad being a close second.
A related point is that "Postcards" seems more apt for this type of episode, rather than a feature film. One can imagine the older Bradford siblings in the '70s ABC dramedy "Eight is Enough" filling the student roles in such an episode.
Scholarly and shy Vermont boy Joel spends his off-hours watching "Star Trek" reruns in French with the widowed owner of his home-away-from-home until beefy blonde Oberlin frat boy Alex convinces him to loosen up. Said loosening leads to a rocky relationship with French girl Toni, who arguably is a French version of Cruise Director Julie McCoy of "The Love Boat."
Their most amusing moment relates to Joel being an inadvertent third wheel on his first date with Toni. The others in the group both pulling "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" style tricks on him and playing parodies of obnoxious Parisians is hilarious.
For his part, an overeager Alex is developing a close personal relationship with Mme. Tessier (a.k.a. Mme. Robinson). The scenes that depict the preliminary stages of Alex sealing la deal are among the most amusing if only because they show the contrast between the impatient 20 year-old horndog and his older and more sophisticated French cougar (a.k.a. "ami avec benefits.")
Returning to our primary subject, the "girl" who is studying with the "two guys" (sorry, no pizza place) is uptight overachiever Laura, who writes the titular correspondence to her boyfriend back in the states. She spends much of the movie alienating her peers before setting off on her misadventure to visit a Medieval festival. The slimy companion that Mandy Patinkin plays makes Laura (and the audience) want to go Medieval on his derriere.
The developments that follow the downs that follow the ups of our group take the film in interesting and unexpected directions. The problem is that the portrayals of these Americans abroad do not make them appealing. Each of them seems to be phoning it in.
The Rat Pack is too young in 1979 to play the roles, but it seems that their "older siblings" would have dona a good job. As mentioned above, having known characters fill the roles also would have helped.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Postcards" is welcome to either send me an email or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.