Un crabe dans la tete (February 17/02)
Given that the majority of homegrown films tend to focus on bizarre characters with odd fetishes, it’s somewhat refreshing to watch a Canadian movie that’s about normal people pursuing romantic relationships.
David La Haye stars as Alex, a deep-sea photographer who, as the movie opens, has just been rescued off the coast of the Indian Ocean. He doesn’t remember how he got there or what he was doing but no matter; his first utterances once regaining consciousness are words of woo directed toward an attractive doctor. After returning to his home in Montreal, he immediately begins pursuing an acerbic newspaper critic (Isabelle Blais). The relationship seems to be more of a fling than a serious connection, so Alex sets his sights on her roommate, a deaf journalist (nicely played by first-time actress Chantal Giroux) – who just happens to be dating Alex’s best friend (Emmanuel Bilodeau).
Though Un crabe dans la tete is ostensibly a Nora Ephron-esque romantic comedy, filmmaker Turpin has set his sights substantially higher. Not content to merely lay out the story and allow the characters to organically fall in love, Turpin’s thrown in a variety of eccentric minor characters and subplots – most of which are entirely needless and could have been excised. Take, for example, Alex’s relationship with a temperamental drug dealer. He initially refuses to become her drug runner, but eventually relents due to his need to please people. This subplot goes nowhere and adds nothing to the film, except irritation among viewers.
Having said that, Turpin’s originality in telling this story has to be commended. It would have been easy for him to go the Sleepless in Seattle/You’ve Got Mail route, but he instead offers up a story that (at the very least) seems authentic. And though his directorial flourishes occasionally border on the nonsensical (what’s with all the extreme close-ups of crabs?), his style certainly propels the story in an efficient and mostly entertaining way. But Turpin abandons everything in the last three minutes of the movie, offering up a conclusion that even the most ardent art-house viewers will have a tough time deciphering.
He’s assembled a hell of a cast, though. Leading the pack is La Haye, an affable fellow whose charisma and effortless charm make him the ideal choice for the character of Alex – a man who wants to be liked by everyone he meets. And as the deaf reporter, Giroux – who is herself unable to hear in real life – plays the character not as a helpless invalid, but as a strong and passionate woman who’s fiercely independent and knows exactly what she wants. An impressive debut, to be sure.
Had the ambiguous ending and superfluous subplots been removed, Un crabe dans la tete could have been an above-average romantic comedy. As it is, though, it’s an impressive directorial debut with some fine performance – though nothing more.