C'est la Vie!

Movie review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
C'est la Vie! Movie Poster Image
Quirky French wedding comedy has drinking, language.
  • NR
  • 2017
  • 115 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Mantra throughout the chaos is to adapt to challenges and never give up, resulting in clear message that although your job (and life) might feel like a mess in any given moment, if you keep pushing through, things might just work out.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the main characters are flawed, but do grow/mature (at least a little). Max is cheating on his wife, losing his patience with staff and clients; Adele can't control her temper; Guy is a poor mentor, afraid of technology; Julien rekindles his old crush on the bride; James is a wedding singer with an ego problem. But by the end, nearly everyone seems to have grown a little and forgiven one another's imperfections.

Violence
Sex

Kissing shown; offscreen hookup between strangers is strongly implied.

Language

Strong language throughout the film, translated in subtitles as "s--t," "f--k," and "a--wipe."

Consumerism

Occasional glimpses/mentions of recognizable brands, including iPhone.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters vape and smoke cigarettes. Champagne and wine are served/consumed throughout the wedding, but no one is shown intoxicated.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that C'est la Vie! (also known as Le sens de la fête) is a French-language wedding comedy told from the perspective of the staff running the reception. Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri), the owner of the event company managing the wedding, must deal with poorly trained waiters, spats between colleagues, and other problems. All of the characters are plainly flawed -- including Max, who's cheating on his wife with one of his employees. But there's also an unmistakable connection between everyone, and by the end of the night most of the main characters have matured at least a little. Iffy content includes smoking (including vaping) and drinking of the sort you might expect at a wedding, some profanity (expect French curses to be translated into everything from "a--wipe" to "f--k"), and an implied hookup between strangers that happens offscreen (nothing more than kissing is shown).

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What's the story?

Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is an event planner nearing the end of his career in C'EST LA VIE!, a comedy set almost entirely during a wedding in a small, picturesque castle in the French countryside. From the movie's opening scene, in which Max loses his temper while dealing with a demanding client, it's clear that he's close to cracking. The problem only gets worse when his next wedding starts, and he finds himself dealing with a staff of inept waiters (Vincent Macaigne, Alban Ivanov), a photographer stuck in the analog age (Jean-Paul Rouve), a self-centered wedding singer (Gilles Lellouche), a manager who keeps losing her cool (Eye Haidara), an unreasonable groom (Benjamin Lavernhe), and Max's own mistress (Suzanne Clément), who's disgruntled that he hasn't yet left his wife. As the evening progresses, the group must work through a series of professional crises -- including a spoiled main course that must quickly be replaced -- while also dealing with personal problems involving romance, money, and confidence. They tackle it all, sometimes successfully, other times failing spectacularly, as the night builds toward an unexpected climax.

Is it any good?

Thanks to characters who are both relatable and sympathetic despite (or, in some cases, because) of their flaws, this comedy manages the none too easy trick of making us root for a group of buffoons. We want the fast-food worker who's taking his first crack at waitering -- he mistakenly fetches musical flutes rather than glass flutes to serve the champagne -- to succeed. Ditto for the event manager, who can't keep herself from getting into vicious verbal sparring matches with the wedding singer, even mere seconds after promising she would try harder. These are people we feel like we know or have known. In some cases, you may even find yourself squirming a bit because you understand all too well how they're feeling. Thankfully, the humorous lens through which many of these scenes are presented keeps that feeling of familiar discomfort from ever becoming too much to bear.

By the end of the night, there isn't much in the way of resolution to most of the characters' specific problems, but viewers are left with the feeling that everyone involved has experienced a moment of self-reflection and that they might just learn from it -- even the clueless groom who, at one point, floats away into the black night sky after a wedding performance stunt gone awry. It's a bit sluggish in spots, and a handful of scenes could leave Western audiences wondering whether they were intended to be dramatic or whether something was lost in translation, but C'est la Vie ends up -- much like the wedding it depicts -- as a modest, well-meaning, warm-hearted success.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about character strengths and life skills. Max isn't without his own weaknesses, but he's able to manage his often inept staff, work through crises, and help those in need. Do you think he could apply these talents to solve some of his own problems in C'est la Vie!?

  • Talk about separating work and friendship. If you worked or went to school with a friend whose behavior caused problems for you and those around you, what would you do?

  • How does the film depict smoking and drinking? Are they glamorized?

Movie details

For kids who love comedy

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