If there were a parallel corporate universe, straight, dull, dark-suited accountants like Fran‡ois Pignon (Daniel Auteuil), would be sexy homosexuals, attired, at least at night, in bun-revealing leather pants. Circumspect but certainly not closeted, Fran‡ois would possess that unmistakable Walter Mitty-like allure, attracting the admiration of both men and women. But parallel universes exist only in our imaginations, and occasionally in the movies-most delightfully in French filmmaker Francis Veber's comedy, The Closet, where Fran‡ois does indeed pose as a racy gay guy in bun-revealing pants in order to keep his job.
Fran‡ois is divorced from his wife and estranged from his teenage son when he finds out that he's about to get fired from his job. Returning home to an empty apartment, Fran‡ois decides he's had just about enough and leans over the terrace wall to jump. But once on the terrace, he finds a hungry kitten to feed and his new next-door neighbor, Belone (Michel Aumont). Belone asks him not to jump-his car is parked just beneath Fran‡ois'balcony. The two begin to talk and Belone convinces Fran‡ois that if he poses as a gay man, the company won't fire him, for fear of being accused of discrimination. The scheme works, but it also turns Fran‡ois'world upside-down.
Although the story is told from Fran‡ois'point of view, and Auteuil is perfectly cast, Grard Depardieu steals the movie as Santini, the company's macho personnel director and head of the rugby team. Santini makes an inappropriate remark about Fran‡ois'newfound sexuality at a company meeting, and is soundly reprimanded by the president for his outburst. He then begins to fear for his own job. A few colleagues who resent his lack of political correctness take advantage of the situation and convince Santini that he had better clean up his act by befriending Fran‡ois. Santini soon falls in love with Fran‡ois, and it is in these scenes, when Depardieu's intimidating bulk seems to soften, and he gazes longingly at Fran‡ois, that the fun really begins. Although it's unclear at the end whether Santini is actually out of the closet, Depardieu makes the most of a wonderful role that illustrates the actor's unflagging instincts for comedy and for fine film acting.
Auteuil's deadpan performance works for most of the film, but it fails when at the end he is supposedly transformed by his experiences as a gay man-he just doesn't look or act transformed, but it doesn't matter. The supporting cast is excellent, and the screenplay is solid. Veber's direction has a real-life pace that lends veracity to the somewhat outlandish plot. Even the predictable ending-Fran‡ois and Miss Bertrand (Mich'le Laroque), his attractive boss, become an item, and Santini is accepted back into the corporate fold-doesn't undermine the comedic mayhem of The Closet. A midsummer night's madness is just that. It isn't earth-shattering, but, like Veber's film, it disturbs our complacency. We are left to imagine our own accountant in bun-revealing leather pants, or our offensive, macho icons falling hopelessly in love with other men-and the world is a little less dull and predictable.