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Review: Congorama

Congorama’s surfeit of plot twists and implausible coincidences strain narrative credibility.

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Congorama
Photo: Tarantula

While the title inaccurately conjures up images of a stomach-churning ride on the less-puked side of a traveling carnival midway, Congorama’s surfeit of plot twists and implausible coincidences strain narrative credibility even as the remarkably brawny presentation from writer-director Phillippe Falardeau provides a warm rush. In the film, the psycho-racial-familial-vocational identity crises of Michel Roy (Olivier Gourmet) all come to a head as his failed attempts to live up to his now-enfeebled father’s high reputation as a famous Belgian writer are reaching a rapidly approaching end; his cachet as renowned offspring can’t offset the fact that he can’t seem to throw together a decent enough pitch worthy of scoring the all-important patent. This happens as his undeserved marriage to a patient and loving Congolese woman endures the deepening strain of his passive suspicions over the true paternity of the black son she swears belongs to him. Which happens as his mute father (played, or rather pantomimed, by Jean-Pierre Cassel) reveals to Michel the fact that he was actually adopted, and that his real mother delivered him in a barn somewhere in Quebec. Which, once he’s made pilgrimage to seek his lineage (while botching yet another invention pitch on the side), turns into something of a remake of Who Killed The Electric Car?, with a heavy emphasis on the question of “who?” While Falardeau lobs his curve balls with precision, the utter preposterousness that comes to represent the path between his connected dots make even his filmmaking confidence and a heroically unlikable portrayal by Gourmet (seemingly forced, in his first shot, to pay homage to his Cannes award-winning performance in the Dardennes’ The Son) stumble by film’s end. The confidence begins to resemble an emu making his darting retreat from an oncoming onslaught.

Cast: Olivier Gourmet, Paul Ahmarani, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Claudia Tagbo, Gabriel Arcand, Lorraine Pintal, Arnaud Mouithys Director: Phillippe Falardeau Screenwriter: Phillippe Falardeau Running Time: 107 min Rating: NR Year: 2006 Buy: Video

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