Synopsis: Max, Raoul and Vincent go on holiday to the beach without their wives and after 15 days of rain and dealing with their kids, they decide they need a vacation.
15 août 6.5
The 15th of August is a mega celebration day in France. I did not know this until I watched this motion picture, actually; I simply thought that it was some randomly-picked day that was significant to the film’s plot.
However, the date was referenced with some amount of reverence at one point, and there were even fireworks at another point. So, being the smart feller that I am, I clued in to its potential importance. I’ve since found out that the 15th is The Assumption, the day that the Blessed Virgin Mary went to Heaven.
Obviously, as with all self-respecting religious holidays, it’s become a shadow of its former self, being more about the festivities and/or consumerism than about its original meaning and/or intention. Apparently, traveling in France on the 15th is a day in Hell – one is better off traveling prior and staying put on that day, because there are mass displacements of people and traffic jams are unbelievable.
No holiday or day of celebration is absolved of the tradition of a film being based around it, even in the loosest fashion. Unfortunately, most of them are repugnant or lackluster at best; the holiday is a gimmick to reel in filmgoers and the script is merely an afterthought, something tacked on out of obligation. Even the best of the bunch, ‘Halloween’, was supposed to be called ‘The Babysitter Murders’ until a producer suggested setting it on Hallowe’en night.
’15 août’ is hardly a classic, so the bastardization of The Assumption is difficult to justify. Having said that, while it’s not a masterpiece, it’s not garbage either. I think that its biggest weakness is a blandness that leaves the viewer disconnected, disinterested in the fates of its protagonists. Beyond this, it’s a decently scripted, acted and constructed film. But it’s nothing special.
And it’s too bad, because the filmmakers attempted to delve into the hearts of men, by forcing them to face the alienation that their respective spouses felt and endured, an alienation that motivated them to pack their bags and leave that clueless trio completely befuddled, alone with their children – and no game plan for what should be the grandest weekend outing of the summer.
It should have been revelatory to see these guys try to figure out what was going on in their relationships. It could have been a tremendous occasion for peeling back their layers, finding out what they were about, and seeing them understand where they went wrong. ’15 août’ attempts this, but results come so late into the film that, by that point, it’s too late – the audience’s interest has been squandered.
The final few moments, when the husbands seek out a therapist to help them work out their issues, was meant to be the culmination of a weekend’s worth of internal travails. It was intended to be both a psychological breakthrough for them and a blessed moment of release and hilarity for the audience. Instead, it came off as forced and completely unbelievable – if not utterly farcical.
It doesn’t help that our protagonists are not easily embraceable: one of them is a callous doctor who was planning to break up with his wife on the day of his arrival, another is a neurotic goof who seems to love his dog more than anything else, and the last is an irresponsible moocher who appears to be as dumb as he is weak. Not exactly the makings of people one would like to identify with.
At least the actors were solid enough. They did the best they could with the material, as did everyone involved. They even managed to squeak in some familiar songs into the soundtrack, in a vain attempt to spruce things up. But not even the most poignant James Brown or Louis Armstrong tracks could spring up real emotions, and not even the Bee Gees or Quincy Jones could invest joy in artificially-constructed moments.
In the end, ’15 août’ is nothing but a lifeless gimmick. It aspired to be so much more, and it could have been if it had managed to provide us with something both down-to-earth and inspiring. Instead, it gave us the dour side of life for ninety minutes and left us with precious little to truly enjoy, let alone celebrate.