Movie Review - Staying Vertical

Alain Guiraudie thoroughly impressed me with his previous film Stranger By the Lake. That film felt utterly sure of what it wanted to say and how it wanted to provoke or shock its audience. His latest is all over the map and seems far from sure of anything. I couldn't tell what it wanted to say or how it wanted it to provoke or shock.

The problem is that Guiraudie's central character never acts with much logical coherence or in ways that make sense from scene-to-scene. Guiraudie's previous protagonist performed actions that were disagreeable and even endangering but those actions made sense when considering external and internal conflicts. The actions here don't make sense on any level. Whereas Guiraudie's last film dabbled in the horror and psychological thriller genre, perhaps here he's dabbling in a kind of absurdist humor, or the kind of humor coming out of modern European countries like Toni Erdmann for example.

If the film is a comedy, it's running gag is how people seem to lust after people who have no interest in them. There are four characters here who specifically attempt to have sex with someone and that someone rejects them. If the movie was more about digging into the lives of all four and seeing how each pushes or pulls another, that might be one thing, but this movie is so superficial that it loses its humor. Guiraudie, like in his previous, would rather follow some young, naive man. Only here, the man in question stumbles and meanders from one place to another with not much direction.

At least, in Stranger By the Lake, the protagonist had a purpose. One didn't have to understand his actions or choices, but the character had a kind of internal logic. The character here however doesn't seem to have any logic to him. Guiraudie tries to thrust some sense onto him by making him a father, but we have no clue how having a baby has changed him or what the difference is from what he used to be. We get no sense of who the protagonist was prior to the film starting. Therefore, we have no perspective or context to examine his present actions or choices.

Damien Bonnard stars as Léo, the aforementioned protagonist in this movie. He's under pressure to write a screenplay. He keeps procrastinating and avoiding doing it. He literally runs and hides from his agent. Presumably, he's suffering from writer's block, but he is able to churn out good pages when he wants. Yet, he doesn't. He instead takes off with his baby but with no money, no diapers and no where to go. He basically chooses to become homeless, a beggar on the street with a baby rather than do his writing. Even when his agent offers child care, Léo just takes off. It makes no sense and is stupid.

Not Rated but contains full-frontal male and female nudity and graphic sexuality.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.


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