by Hope Madden
The great thing about filmmaker Quentin Dupieux is that you always know what you’re in for and you definitely never know what you’re in for.
The point of Mandibles, essentially, is that you can never rely on anyone to do a single, simple thing correctly. Manu (Grégoire Ludig, Keep an Eye Out) — homeless at the moment — promises to deliver a suitcase in the trunk of his car from Michel-Michel to Point B. He needs to get it there by noon. Can he be trusted to do that one thing?
Of course he can!
There are the extenuating circumstances of the giant housefly that’s already in the trunk. We could get into what happens with the fly, but it’s not going to make any real sense, so why ruin it? Dupieux films work best when you just go with it.
That’s what Manu does. He and best friend Jean-Gab (David Marsais) take opportunities as they come, remain open to possibilities, and just enjoy their friendship. And their new, giant housefly.
The relatively streamlined plot delivers a fresh change of pace for the filmmaker—not that you could call any Dupieux film stale. But in pairing back the complications and convolutions, the writer/director has crafted maybe his most audience-friendly film to date. Mandibles certainly delivers the filmmaker’s most audience-friendly characters.
Ludig frustrates and charms in equal measure as the doofus Manu, and he and Marsais share an easy chemistry that suggests a lot of miles on this friendship. Here is the filmmaker’s most delightful surprise—a lack of cynicism or existential dread that leaves just an airy, almost sweet, wildly ridiculous comedy.
None of this has anything to do with a jawbone, but the title will become clear if you pay close attention.
Or maybe it won’t.
Quentin Dupieux, amiright?