COMEDY; 2hr (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Laura Morante
Funny business: from left, Luchini and Duris
Like cartoonist Michael Leunig’s defeated Laughing Hyena, playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Duris), better known as Molière, is tired of merely being funny. After cracking up the provinces, Molière and his troupe are back in Paris, where the testy artiste burns to express himself. But what became of him 13 years before, in 1644, when (in actuality) the whip-smart satirist, then a mediocre actor, disappeared for several months?
Mixing cheeky speculation with a smidge of historical fact, director Laurent Tirard takes Molière on a deranged escapade. To escape a debtors’ jail term, the 22-year-old washout agrees to assist a besotted oaf (Luchini as moneyed — and married — trader Monsieur Jordain) in his pursuit of a coquettish marquise (Ludivine Sagnier). Nothing goes according to plan, as Molière falls for the glamorous Madame Jordain (Morante) and the ensemble juggles misadventure and misunderstanding with impressive ease. Who knows what Molière would make of it, but these loops and flourishes — culminating, on a bittersweet note, in the dramatist’s own evolution — spell classic French farce.