"Starts Off Strong, Then Pretty Much Emulates Its Namesake"
Having successfully emulated the work of Alfred Hitchcock with the hilariously tense dark comedy “With a Friend Like Harry,” French director Dominik Mol has now taken a page from the works of David Lynch with his new film, “Lemming,”with exceedingly curious results.It starts off brilliantly–a nice young married couple, Alain (Laurent Lucas) and Benedicte (Charlotte Gainsbourg), invite his boss, Richard (Andre Dussollier), to a dinner that is spectacularly ruined by his wife, Alice (Charlotte Rampling). The next day, Alice shows up at Alain’s office, tells him that she acts the way that she does because Richard once tried to murder her and then tries to seduce him. When that doesn’t work, Alice returns to the house a few days later to speak with Benedicte and a shocking event occurs that I wouldn’t dream of revealing.
At this point, roughly a third of the way into the film, the story abruptly shifts from being a keenly observed comedy of ill manners to become a variation of such psychological mind-benders as “Lost Highway” and “Mulholland Drive.” Benedicte begins to act strangely aloof and Alain is driven to distraction–not to mention a car accident–trying to figure out what is wrong with her. Eventually, it appears that she has decided to abandon him to take up with Richard but it soon becomes clear that there is something far stranger going on than just the bust-up of a marriage. Oh yeah, there is also the matter of the lemming that somehow found its way into Alain’s sink and which inspires many a bizarre dream.
The problem with “Lemming” is that the opening scenes are so good and strong–the dinner party sequence deserves comparison with the surreal get-togethers seen in the works of Luis Bunuel–that the shift in tone from icy comedy to outright weirdness is more jarring than anything else. During that first third, we have no idea where the story is going and it is that unpredictability that is so refreshing. Afterwards, it begins to follow a more familiar path and while it may be done well, it lacks the freshness and energy of those earlier scenes.While it does have its pleasures–the chief one being the excuse to see Rampling and Gainsbourg, two wonderful actresses who never quite caught on in America, sharing the screen–“Lemming” goes on far too long to tell its increasingly convoluted story and when it finally comes to a conclusion, you are more likely to be shrugging your shoulders than scratching your head.