Farce a la Francais: Our Review of ‘What’s In A Name’ on OVID

Posted in What's Streaming? by - June 14, 2024
Farce a la Francais: Our Review of ‘What’s In A Name’ on OVID

What’s In A Name has a simpler French title – Le Prenom, or The Given Name, and just like interpretations and titles, this film has its share of characters who seem simple. Teacher Elisabeth or Babu (Valérie Benguigui) and her professor husband Pierre (Charles Berling) are hosting a dinner party. Babu feels sad about her fey bestie Claude (Guillaume de Tonquédec).

This is because Claude is considering a job in Marseille. That isn’t the only bombshell in triple threats Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de La Patellière’s film adaptation of their own play. The dinner’s guest of (dis)honour is Babu’s brother and realtor bro Vincent (Patrick Bruel). He reveals what seems like a joke. He’s naming his son after someone sounding similar to the worst name ever, Adolphe, and chaos brilliantly ensues. 

What’s In A Name seems typical of French films or plays about French people’s impoliteness, as the gender commentary here is also typical but it bears repeating as it depicts Babu’s resentment. Women here catch strays, like how everyone perceives Vincent’s wife Anna (Judith El Zein). Or how some are hiding a secret involving Babu and Vincent’s mom Françoise (Françoise Fabian).

I don’t know why I like this film even as  it breaks several rules, because the arguments in What’s In A Name are basically these fortysomethings saying ‘no u’. Vincent’s argument is that Pierre shouldn’t judge ‘Adolphe’ because Pierre’s kids’ first names are equally dumb. Their names are Apollin and Myrtille (Alexis Leprisé and Juliette Levant), and to that I say let them live.

Most of the main actors here are reprising their roles from the original play. And Berling is the cast’s relatively newest member, tremendous at playing someone who is a chronic mansplainer. The best thing about Berling’s performance is that he makes self righteousness a relatable trait. There’s shades of everyone in these characters, even Claude, who plays ‘Switzerland’ throughout the film.

What’s In A Name seemingly has low stakes but it’s also what makes it easily approachable, even if yes, there’s the film’s sexual aspect, which makes it just like Hollywood films. Everyone can relate to the danger of revealing secrets that can destroy someone’s fraying friendships. Or that we’re hiding the fact that we don’t like the people closest to us.

Babu’s speech in What’s In A Name is one for the ages for a few reasons, as the film makes its viewers feel how close these characters are to each other. Most of the acting is just reacting and we can see everyone’s devastation as Babu explodes. A joke became this group’s Pandora’s Box, although the film, thankfully, ends on hopeful levity.

Stream What’s In A Name on OVID.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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