About halfway through Valérie Lemercier’s lighthearted French farce, The Ultimate Accessory (original title 100% Cachemire), I started to feel like this was one of those films you watch at Christmas.
Still recovering from the relentless December parties, stomach full of sprouts, bread sauce, four Champagne cocktails and seven bottles of novelty real ale, there’s something on the TV: you’re not sure what it is exactly, but it seems silly enough. You can take a 20 minute nap, warm the mince pies and play Star Wars Monopoly at the same time – it won’t really matter because nothing of any real consequence is ever likely to happen.
The MacGuffin revolves around a trendy Parisian couple (played by Lemercier herself alongside Gilles Lellouche) who have decided to adopt a Russian child, a 7 year old boy called Alekseï. The humour comes at the expense of the couple (and other couples), whose shallow motivation for adoption is the main target. As suggested in the title, Alekseï is merely an another addition to their consumer lifestyle. But the boy’s mischief-making causes more trouble than they’d bargained for. Ho ho.
Unfortunately, I found myself fantasising about a far more hard-hitting satire than the one presented, which pretty quickly gets bored of its central premise to focus on uninteresting and off-topic subplots. In a story about a couple who acquire Alekseï only to quickly lose interest when things get tricky, Lemercier seems to have treated the premise in exactly the same way – we have one, but we don’t really care too much about it.
Alekseï makes very little appearance on screen, and when he does his direction seems to have been to show him a picture of Grumpy Cat and say “do that”. His mischief often takes place off screen, so that we only hear about what he’s been up to. Besides, Alekseï behaves so unlike a 7 year old boy you begin to wonder if Lemercier has ever had to be in the company of one herself.
Finally, the anticipated (and warmly welcomed) denouement arrives to confirm my earlier feeling, as the story wraps itself up in Tesco’s value range paper, with fake snow and everyone standing around the faux embers in the mock Louis XIV fireplace; at which point Lellouche declares, “This is too much like Méliès!”
If only. Pass me another Terry’s Chocolate Orange.