I’ve complained a fair amount in print about the three-act plot structure and how most films are built so similarly that you can almost predict the beats before they happen. I guess there’s a comfort in it. The weird thing about that is it seems that mainstream audiences are so unwittingly invested in the three-act structure that they rebel against a picture almost immediately when it doesn’t spell everything out in the most conveniently possible way. I’ve been out with friends before and seen them get frustrated when things aren’t immediately spelled out.
With that in mind, it’s so refreshing when a film just kind of lets its characters be and gives them space and has the confidence that they are enough. The film allows the audience to spend some time with them and make up our own minds about how we feel about them. It’s one of the pleasures of film festivals to be able to have that experience and not have every emotional beat laid out in advance for us. French Dirty is a strange film, but it’s the unconventional nature that makes it worth checking out.
Brothers Wade and Jesse Allain-Marcus, who wrote and directed the film, have given us a Los Angeles film that doesn’t show the audience the typical Los Angeles. That would be typical, boring, and rote. Actually, it’s been one of the pleasures of the festival this year, to see corners of the city that the crew from Entourage would never darken. The film opens as Vincent (played by Wade Allain-Marcus) has just slept with Roma (Melina Lisette) who happens to be the girlfriend of his best mate Steve (Arjun Gupta), which launches the film into an unexpected sort of triangulation.
As Vincent comes to terms with his emotions after hooking up with Roma, he encounters a French tourist (Else Beidermann) who hangs with him as he visits his family. As the day goes on, the film is peppered with flashbacks that fill in the blanks of Vincent’s relationship with both of his friends.
It’s easy for these types of films to wallow too much in their eccentricities, to tip over into being a parody of an indie festival picture. The Allain-Marcus brothers have created a film that feels very lived in, very personal, and, as a result, quite truthful. Sundance has certainly created a cinematic type and it’s light years away from this. French Dirty gives us people with quirks, but people who are so quirky that they are indie cinema cliches. It’s also great to see a film populated by attractive actors who don’t look like the typical movie actors. It seems like modern Hollywood is awash with casting directors demanding certain types. For me, it’s a revelation to see actors onscreen who open us up to the possibility of people who don’t look like Chris Hemsworth but hold the screen in a similar way. French Dirty gives us characters who are just on the cusp of being old enough to have wisdom, but aren’t quite there yet. It’s worth your time to get to know them. I enjoyed their company.