Euro-Yuppie Male Bonding
At the Movies
Directed by Doris Dorrie
At the Nickelodeon
PICTURE THE SCENARIO: on your wedding anniversary you find a hickey on your wife's neck as you try to drape it with an expensive stone necklace. You question her about it nervously (you haven't had sex together for at least a week), and she replies that she has a lover. You, of course, dally with your secretaries at the office, but this is different.
What do you do?
Well, if you are Julius in Doris Dorrie's new German comedy Men, you naturally move in with your wife's lover.
Oh, and you bring along a gorilla mask to wear in case of encounters with your wife, and you plan to change your new roommate into a reasonablefacs imile of yourself.
Pretty clever, but not really great. And that is precisely what the movie Men is--pretty clever, but not really great. The ingredients are all there: good acting, great filming, and an amusing script. But Men falls short somewhere.
Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that this is, basically, a one joke movie. After all, as soon as Julius (played by Heiner Lauterbach) moves out on his wife and in with her lover, you can predict most of what happens. (In case you can't, I'm certainly not going to tell you).
And although the action is amusing, there is something painful underlying Julius' desperation to get his wife back. He takes a month's sabbatical from his job in order to devote his entire time to the task and changes his entire personality. He takes a break from his skirt-chasing activities. He even takes a break from his three-piece suits and rep ties.
DORRIE'S FILM is aimed at yuppies; the fears that Julius has are typical yuppie angst, his problems, yuppie difficulties. The humor is even yuppie humor. For instance, Julius and his new roomie, Stefan (Uwe Ochsenknecht), are doing their laundry and he foolishly puts his blue jeans in with the rest of the load. Of course, the entire wash turns blue. Stefan, who is an illustrator gets annoyed at first, but then says reflectively, "I guess I'll be in my blue phase now."
Pretty clever, but not really great. The best part of this movie, though, is not the lackluster humor or even the offbeat plot, but the relationship that develops between the two men. At first, Stefan refuses to rent his empty room to Julius, but after the latter pushes, he consents. Bit by bit, the two begin to become close friends, or at least as close friends as one can become with your wife's lover.
And bit by bit the two begin to assume the other's personality. Stefan becomes more sedate and Julius more wild. The scenes in which the two of them are alone are the film's best. Physically, Lauterbach and Ochsenknecht are diametrically opposed. Lauterbach is trim, dark and balding; Ochsenknecht fair, muscular and dramatic.
Although Stefan does not know that Julius is the hated husband of his lover, there is a certain tension that runs through their relationship. This awkwardness enhances their brief displays of caring and makes their squabbles even more amusing and childlike.
The character of Paula Armburst (Ulrike Kriener), however, is not developed to the extent that it could be. Her character is as plastic as both of the men, and aside from sex, not really important for them. Kriener, while a good actress, makes no attempt to counteract this image, but goes along with the docile portrayal of Paula the script allows for.
Men is not the sort of movie you'll laugh your way through; nor will it make any great sort of impact on you. But just in case you discover your spouse is sleeping with someone, you'll need to know how to deal with it. And in a manner that's pretty clever, but not really great.