‘Dear Mother’ Review: Mamarazzi

In “Dear Mother,” Laurent Lafitte’s zippy feature directing debut, Jean-Louis (Lafitte) is on a mission to find the source of his existence — or “the origin of the world,” to borrow from the film’s French title, “L’Origine du Monde,” an explicit reference to the painting by the 19th-century artist Gustave Courbet of the, uh, female anatomy.

Thing is, Jean-Louis’s heart has stopped beating, and there’s no reasonable explanation for why, despite his lack of a pulse, he appears to be alive and well. Valérie (Karin Viard), his wife, drags him to a kind of spiritual guru who knows the cure. All they need to lift the curse — or whatever it is — is a photograph of Jean-Louis’s mother’s vagina.

Adapted by Lafitte from a 2013 play by Sébastien Thiery, “Dear Mother” is the kind of screwball comedy whose absurd premise and speedy pacing very nearly allow you to overlook the fact that it’s not exceedingly bright or witty.

Faced with the unseemly task of getting his estranged mother (Hélène Vincent) to reveal her privates before time runs out, Jean-Louis and Valérie attempt a number of harebrained schemes, most of them involving Jean-Louis’s buddy Michel (Vincent Macaigne), who poses as a gynecologist, then as a photographer of nude portraits.

The trio’s lively rapport certainly keeps you on your toes, but beyond the pleasurable chaos of it all, the gags about female genitalia grow trite and juvenile — and not in a lovable way. Add to this a subtle air of homophobia, and the whole thing begins to feel like the invention of randy fraternity boys who’ve taken a liking to art history class.

Dear Mother
Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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