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With: Sami Bouajila, Charly Sergue, Patachou, Ariane Ascaride, Pierre-Loup Rajot
Written by: Jacques Martineau, Olivier Ducastel
Directed by: Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 95
Date: 31/01/2000

Adventures of Felix (2000)

2 Stars (out of 4)

On the Road to Nowhere

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

What a wonderful device is the road movie. It's an easy way to physically lug a character from point A to point B to point C and insert a few kooky supporting characters and lessons learned along the way. The great road movies, like It Happened One Night, Two-Lane Blacktop, Stranger than Paradise and The Straight Story, all have a desperation to them, a weird, wandering loneliness that causes these people to hit the road. And although the road seems like a romantic place, it's really devastatingly empty.

That's the trouble with Adventures of Felix, the new French comedy by Jacques Martineau and Olivier Ducastel (Jeanne and the Perfect Guy). The hero, Felix (Sami Bouajila), is a gay man who hits the road to find his father. But he's just about the most well-adjusted human being I've ever seen in a movie. One of the basic rules of storytelling is that we want to know about the misfits like ourselves. We don't want to hear about people who know exactly what they're doing and where they're going. We hate people like that.

The other trick to successfully pulling off a road movie is finding kooky characters that work. If you have two people traveling together, you can get away without them. But if you have a single person, like Alvin Straight in The Straight Story or Felix in this film, then the kooky characters had better be worthwhile. In The Straight Story, they seem authentic and random. In Adventures of Felix, they're divided up into neat chapters, and they all seem too carefully planned and scripted; each comes with his or her own tidy beginning, middle and end.

And, just in case we couldn't figure it out, the filmmakers provide us with title cards announcing the surrogate relationship these side characters will serve for Felix. One old woman becomes Felix's "grandmother." A quick sexual fling is with a "cousin." Discovering this family dynamic on our own might have been the movie's biggest pleasure, but the filmmakers negate that right away.

The only thing that ever bothers Felix is wondering how his father will accept him when he finally arrives at his destination. But the filmmakers never put him in that situation, denying him even that potential character growth. The story ends with Felix deciding not to meet his father after all, and gaining strength from that decision. Bleh.

I suspect that the only reason Adventures of Felix has received any kind of attention, not to mention distribution, is because the main character is gay, and the movie does not shy away from gay romantic situations. Felix starts off with a boyfriend -- and eventually returns to him -- but he doesn't think twice about cheating and indulging in some forbidden pleasure while on the road (yet another reason not to like him). I like to see gay characters in films, but filmmakers can't specifically rely on their gayness to make them interesting. They have to be human beings too.

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