The Players DVD Review

There are only two certainties in life; death and a Frenchman will always cheat on his wife.

I’m pretty sure that’s the second one.

Extra-marital dalliances in France seem to be negotiated with the same easy convention as a Brit might haggle over a seven-seater family vehicle with a greasy salesman.

The French adore, nay, embrace infidelity. Whereas our idea of infidelity stretches as far as making mildly flirtatious eye contact with that girl on the train, before pretending we’re more interested in reading that free newspaper of ours.

So it’s reasonably safe to assume Jean Dujardin’s latest film, The Players, is less than suitable for your average, repressed married man.

We open with Jean Dujardin’s Fred sitting at a set of traffic lights and casting admiring glances towards a younger lady from the driver’s seat of his convertible sports car.

Any hopes of appearing suave and debonair soon evaporate as Fred stalls his engine.

At home with his friend Greg, Fred fabricates an intricate tale to convince his better half that his late return home the previous evening was entirely innocent.

His wife isn’t so much suspicious as complicit in all of this, convincing herself that turning a blind eye to Fred’s wandering one is less trouble than being forced to deal with the actual issue.

Similar vignettes of French life that are darkly comic in tone proceed to cover the different faces of male infidelity.

Dujardin changes character and now wanders around a business conference held in a suburban hotel, trying his luck with every female in the room. Gilles Lelouche plays a married dentist struggling to keep up with his beautiful and much younger mistress on a night out with her college friends; another short story focuses on a husband being goaded into admitting a previous infidelity by his wife, before she confesses to an affair of her own.

Whilst occasionally amusing and affecting, all these episodes are quite uncomfortable to watch. Not one story really draws you in to the characters which are in turn left unexplored, incomplete and unlikeable.

Using the same male leads for different stories becomes confusing too, as it’s often unclear that we’re watching a new character in a different story.

And even though the male characters are suitably sleazy, The Players main flaw is failing to address what really drives a man to infidelity. The nearest the collective directorial team come to any reasoning is when Fred claims, half-seriously, that global recession is the driving force behind his relentless pursuit of affairs.

What could have been an interesting study of why men cheat turns into a quite forgettable, if occasionally engaging, movie for fans of Frenchmen getting their dander up.

Even worse, there’s no handy cut-out and keep guide for how to successfully cheat on your wife by the who-I-proclaim masters of the art.

So I guess I’ll have to stick with my newspaper on that train.

Frank Gardiner

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