Merci Docteur Rey Reel Affirmations 13: Washington DC Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

Date: Saturday, 10/18/2003
Time: 9:00 pm

Venue: Lincoln Theatre
Tickets: $9

Type: Feature presentation
Language: English and French with English subtitles

Metro Weekly Rating: (4 out of 5)

by Randy Shulman

Merci Docteur ReyWHEN A MOVIE boasts an executive producer by the name of Ishmail Merchant, you have every right to believe you're in for a few hours of richly rewarding quality entertainment. And this first-time film from writer-director Andrew Litvack (whose association on Merchant-Ivory productions includes an acting credit as an "American Officer Presenting a Dagger" in Surviving Picasso), that belief remains firmly intact.

Merci Docteur ReyThis irrepressibly French comedy stars mournful-faced Stanislas Merhar as a young man struggling with his homosexuality as well as with an overbearing opera diva mother (played to the histrionic hilt and beyond by Dianne Weist). When Thomas witnesses a murder, he goes on a search for the killer, falling into an unlikely friendship with the supremely neurotic Penelope (Jane Birkin), an actress who has dubbed so many Vanessa Redgrave films, she's come to think of herself as a literal extension of Redgrave. (Redgrave, in fact, makes an appearance in one of the movie's juiciest scenes, and inadvertently insults the poor woman by exclaiming "How could they give me such a tacky French voice?")

The slim Merhar gives a marvelous performance, reminiscent of Gerard Depardieu when he was less of a beached whale and actually handsome. Merchant-Ivory favorite Simon Callow turns up in an intriguing cameo and Birkin is a fumbling, nervous riot. But the movie belongs to Weist, who imbues her each and every scene with a steely Diva-esque venom. "You don't mind if I call you bubblehead," she says to Penelope, mistakenly thinking she's the older woman bedding her 23-year-old son. "I mean it kindly."

Merci Docteur Rey offers abundant joy in its weird, loony narrative, which is only slightly marred by a certain predictability in the outcome. But as the French might say, c'est la vie!

More information

Film Links:
· Reel Affirmations details
· Internet Movie Database
· Official film site

Festival Venue:
Lincoln Theatre
1215 U Street, NW; Washington, DC 20009. (202) 328-6000. (map)
Directly across from Green Line Metro / U Street-Cardozo station.

You may buy your tickets or passes in advance: Online at or by phone at (800) 494-TIXS (494-8497). Or you may visit the Lincoln Theatre (1215 U Street, NW, WDC); the DCJCC (1529 16th Street, NW, WDC); Lambda Rising (1625 Connecticut Avenue, NW, WDC); or Universal Gear (1601 17th Street, NW, WDC).

For more info visit the official Reel Affirmations website.