By Don Simpson | February 23, 2012
Directors: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy
Writers: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy
Starring: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Philippe Martz, Bruno Romy, Vladimir Zongo, Destiné M’Bikula Mayemba, Willson Goma, Didier Armbruster, Anaïs Lemarchand, Lenny Martz, Emilie Horcholle, Sandrine Morin, Christophe ‘René’ Philippe, Alexandre Xenakis
Traditionally when a fictional character is given the opportunity to make three wishes come true, they tend to make the horrible mistake of asking for ridiculous super powers or an unfathomable sum of money. Eventually they suffer enough negative repercussions from their selfish and greedy wishes, that they beg to reverse their wishes. In The Fairy, when the titular fairy named Fiona (Fiona Gordon) asks Dom (Dominique Abel) what three wishes he would like to come true, his first two are a scooter and free fuel for life. For Dom, these are basic necessities of life, especially since his bicycle has just broken down; now the scooter (and fuel) will provide Dom with a reliable (and cost-effective) form of transportation to his night shift at a small hotel near the industrial seaport of Le Havre.
Dom can never quite figure out what he wants for his third wish, which says something about his character as well. Not only is he practical, but he is also quite selfless. Despite the inherent struggles and frustrations of his working class lifestyle, he has no intentions of trying to alter his socio-economic class. Besides, Dom would much rather focus on his budding romance with Fiona than worry about a third wish.
Like another recent French working class comedy that also happens to be set in Le Havre — Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre (2011) — the shear simplicity of this not so beautiful class of people is idealized, even fetishized. The characters in both films have learned to enjoy life despite its constant barrage of hurdles. Of course the quirky and comedic tone of The Fairy (and Le Havre) can easily be misinterpreted as a Newt Gingrich-esque condescension towards the poor. Personally, I find it to be overwhelmingly clear that the writing/directing/acting triumvirate of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy does not intend to be condescending or patronizing; in fact, it is quite the opposite. The Fairy is an overtly positive portrayal of the working class that fearlessly channels the whimsically smart, politically-charged, slapstick shenanigans of Charles Chaplin and Jacques Tati…with a healthy dose of musical choreography thrown in for good measure.
If The Fairy has any one fault, it is that it is just too gosh darn silly and nonsensical for its own good. (I would retort: “But, it is so damn clever!”) The Fairy‘s storyline straddles the line between absurdism and surrealism, erring more towards ridiculousness than any kind of coherent plot or message. (Some critics have compared it to A Town Called Panic, and I can definitely see why.) I just wonder if the town of Le Havre is as strange — yet vibrant and quirky — as Le Havre and The Fairy make it out to be.