Pignon's wife couldn't stand him and left two years ago, yet he still phones regularly to her and their indifferent teenage son. After learning that he is soon to be fired, Pignon, distraught, returns home and meets that "perfect stranger" we all want to meet someday: The one who steps into our life and brings magic into it. From that moment on, the neighbor, Belone (Michel Aumont), navigates Pignon's life like a chess game.
Belone easily persuades François to concoct a story about his homosexuality so his boss will fear a discrimination lawsuit, superimposes photographic images and -- voila -- produces a shot of Pignon in a leather-clad embrace with another man in bun-exposed pants. The photo gets sent to Pignon's employer, and the events start spinning like a windmill in stormy weather, eventually changing Pignon's life forever.
Oddly, for the rest of the story, The Closet flirts with being politically correct and is as predictable as it only can be. What gives the film a tint of pleasure and saves it from being totally grotesque and improbable is that the movie never aspires to be anything more than what it is. Director Francis Veber (The Dinner Game) finds a delightful irony in the fact that Pignon has to lie that he doesn't like women in order to prove he is a man. We, of course, will learn that there is so much more to Pignon than he and his colleagues could ever imagine.
While watching the film, I caught myself feeling surprised that such a banal movie could actually be off-the-cuff and entertaining. The most distasteful thought in The Closet is how little people really care about political correctness but how diligent they are in pretending the opposite. Office politics always reveal people at their most vile: There is something unquestionably disturbing and familiar in watching petty little personalities trapped in their small trivial lives as they entertain themselves with self-made gossip and lies.
Besides Auteuil, the acting, for the most part, is adequate. Gérard Depardieu, for example, starts off great as a gauche, self-righteous macho rugby couch, a racist, and a homophobe. However, as Pignon gets his job back, Depardieu's colleagues make him fearful for his own job for calling Pignon a "fruit." The situation becomes repetitiously improbable and Depardieu is annoying and unconvincing as we learn that he might actually be the one "coming out of the closet."
Michèle Laroque is especially good as Mademoiselle Bertrand, Pignon's boss, who not only discovers a real Pignon and subsequently seduces him, but also demonstrates to us how smart women master the most impossible situations.
Though maybe not quite so impossible as this film.
Aka Le Placard.
Out of the closet for good.
Run time: 84 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 17th January 2001
Box Office USA: $4.5M
Distributed by: Miramax
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 68 Rotten: 11
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Francis Veber
Producer: Patrice Ledoux
Screenwriter: Francis Veber