MY LIFE IN PINK (MA VIE EN ROSE)

R
Reviews

An unusual dilemma faces one French suburban family. Their little boy, Ludovic (George du Fresne), has taken it into his head that he's a little girl. His parents, Hanna (Michele Laroque) and Pierre (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey), are understandably less than over the moon about this. Ludovic can't seem to stay out of Mama's closet, he filches the role of Snow White in his school play and is bent on marrying his classmate, Jerome (Julien Riviere). The fact that Jerome is the son of Pierre's boss somewhat complicates things. Formerly friendly neighbors turn hostile, Ludovic is expelled from his school, Pierre is fired and the family is forced to move. Parental attitudes change, with the once tolerant Hanna becoming outwardly hostile to her son, while Pierre, a former bastion of machismo, slowly comes to accept Ludovic's forthright individuality.

For all its highly piquant subject matter, My Life in Pink (Ma Vie en Rose) is, above all, the story of a family. Director Alain Berliner and screenwriter Chris vender Stappen have created one of the most authentic, touching households ever put on film. It's a far, welcome cry from the motley, phony convention of stars-as-blood-relations that American audiences have become accustomed to (Parenthood, Home for the Holidays). The family's interrelations are both funny and perfectly apt. Little Ludo has a different, intimate bond with, say, his one teenage sister than his more conventional brothers. He's naturally close to his mother and, especially, his grandmother, a real sympatico free spirit (charmingly played by Helene Vincent). If unsure about what he is, he nevertheless knows exactly what he wants and has no problem coming up with 'scientific' theories about his misplaced X chromosome to explain it all. He has an active fantasy life, as well, obviously, exemplified by his dream world featuring Pam and Ben, a Gallic version of Barbie and Ken dolls, who have their own resplendently tacky musical TV show. These scenes are a triumph of Veronique Melery's and Eve Romboz's production design and FX, saturated with psychedelic colors and doll's-house miniatures, an enchanting, infinitesimal Oz. Alain Berliner's direction has just the right, deft tone, picking up on the everyday influences which can easily feminize an interiorized little boy not into sports or gunplay. Television's all-too accessible cheesy glamour, Madonna-esque disco songs wafting out of radios and, always, the close presence of women, be it his relations or the gabby neighborhood coven of housewives, all contribute to the path of an androgyne.

As the beset parents, Laroque and Ecoffey are both sensational. She initially has the typical Frenchwoman's awe-inspiring elan that is the envy of the world, and is both delightful pal and Mom to her brood. Her patience is eventually worn to a frazzle, however, by the havoc Ludovic's behavior wreaks on their lives, and she becomes a domestic fury, sans any pandering for audience sympathy. (Her enraged shearing of the martyred Ludo's long hair has weird echoes of Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc.) Ecoffey, for his part, manages to imbue his role of orthodox Dad with a wealth of muted sensitivity. (The most moving moment in the film comes when, seconds after berating Ludovic for his girlishness, he immediately re-bonds with him by taking him by the hand.) It becomes apparent that, for all of Ludovic's misfit status, it is really his parents who've become lost in a world of stifling convention; he is, for the most part, uncannily sure of himself. Solemn little Du Fresne bears a froggy resemblance to the young Leslie Caron and acts without the slightest trace of precociousness. (It should be said that all of the children's performances here are blessedly devoid of the cutes.) He has a gawky grace when he vogues along to 'Pam's Theme,' and is delicious in the one moment when, to prove his prepubescent heterosexuality, he suddenly hitches up his crotch before attempting to kiss his first girl. His preternatural, wide-eyed deadpan calm, however, could have been enlivened by more of the luxuriant sissiness Brandon De Wilde displayed so unforgettably in The Member of the Wedding, or that of Brett Barsky in the more recent short, Trevor.

--David Noh