Sitcom is Gallic black comedy, edgy to a fault and then some. When Jean (Fran‡ois Martrhouret) brings home a pet white rat, his entire household goes mysteriously berserk. His son Nicholas (Adrien de Van) suddenly declares himself homosexual at a family dinner. Daughter Sophie (Marina de Van) attempts suicide, which leaves her a bitter paraplegic. His wife Helene (Evelyne Dandry) can only look aghast at these horrifying developments until she, too, commingles with that pesky rodent and seduces Nicholas, in an attempt to combat his gayness. And that's just the half of it. Along the way, Sophie's boyfriend David (Stephane Rideau) is caught flagrante delicto with their rambunctious maid, Maria (Lucia Sanchez). Her black husband Abdu (Julien-Emmanuel Eyoum Deido) decides to become Nicholas' homosexual mentor. The house is suddenly swamped by strangers answering weird ads placed by the now fully out-and-proud Nicholas. Through it all, Jean maintains a serene demeanor until finally going ballistic himself.

This starts out well, in a very Bu˜uelian manner, with the petit-bourgeois family neatly established, from the platitude-spouting father and conventional, ever-mindful-of-appearances mama on down. Writer-director Fran‡ois Ozon gets carried away, however, in the name of outrage and, for all of its scandalous developments, the film ends up being extremely predictable. It culminates in an annoying red herring of a false ending, as well as some ultimately monstrous shenanigans involving a metamorphosed giant rat. (Didn't John Waters already do this 25 years ago?) It's a shame, because Ozon is a joyously uninhibited filmmaker with an often refreshing take on middle-class mores. He's very good with actors, as his cast performs with aplomb, even under the most trying of circumstances. Dandry, a delicious comedienne, gives a chameleonic performance, both harried and hugely sensual. (Her love scenes, whether with rat or son, are veritable triumphs of the actor's art.) It's as if, for one episode of 'The Donna Reed Show,' the pristinely shirtwaisted Ms. Reed had substituted her raunchier persona from From Here To Eternity. Martrhouret perfectly calibrates the typical paterfamilias, completely out of it, yet unassailable in his domestic authority. 'Tomorrow is another day; what will be, will be; don't worry, be happy' (or the French equivalent thereof): There's no occasion for which he doesn't have some infuriatingly complacent aphorism. He and Dandry have a wonderful scene in bed, with her remarking, 'Honey, I don't think the kids are doing too well.' His response, something to the effect of every family having its problems, is met with: 'I don't think having a homosexual for a son and a daughter who's a practicing sadomasochist are just going to go away.' Even when he learns about certain Oedipal goings-on, his only comment is: 'I'm not saying that incest is the solution to civilization's problems, but your mother is an exceptional woman.' Marina de Van manages to imbue Sophie's unrelenting spikiness with a gruff likeability. Adrien de Van, her real-life brother, makes Nicholas an amusingly nerdy worm who turns into a Mama-approved shopaholic jock. ('This Gaultier is last season's, but I love the stretchy fabric...') Rideau is ardent and Cocteau-handsome, and has one jaw-droppingly sexy scene that would probably give Jack Valenti and the entire MPAA a collective stroke.

--David Noh