French Immersion Kevin Tierney
Published Oct 06, 2011Even though political party names and platforms are deliberately ambiguous, removing the unseemliness of overt political debate from what is essentially a comedy of warring oppositions finding common ground, the whole French-English battle in the face of the recent loss of party status for the Bloc speaks on its own simplified terms.
Kevin Tierney's directorial debut, French Immersion, posits itself as a quirky comedy of clashing ideologies and awkward juxtapositions by opening in a rural Quebec bingo (or Anglo) hall, wherein denizens win Anglophone visitors to house during a language immersion semester at a local adult learning centre. When not staying with their Quebecois hosts – eating meals of duck liver and maple syrup – the English-Canadians are forced to speak French at all times, lest they be punished with yellow warning cards and a wallop of French sass.
While cutesy love stories between teacher and student add the standard light-hearted element to a comedy that never actually manages to be remotely funny – there are cartoon sound effects and sexually curious senior citizens – the focus is mostly on homosexual Newfie political leader hopeful Bobby Sexton (Gavin Crawford) and his efforts to appeal to Quebec voters via bilingualism.
Since the handling of this surface level subtext is tenuous at best, having limited barbed commentary on national politics, it comes off as little more than annoying filler in a film that never has any concept of tonal consistency. In fact, half of the sequences in French Immersion serve no purpose to the overall story, existing merely as strained attempts at adolescent comedy involving circumcision and cheap strip bars.
If there were something clever about the glib nationalist message about moving forward despite past differences, the tepid, groan-inducing shenanigans would be forgivable. But by the final act of this forgettable exercise in sketch tedium, it's hard to do anything other than roll your eyes at the assertion that all Canadians need to get along is a Molson Export and a good game of street hockey. (TVA)