We start Hervé Mimran's new Un homme pressé/A Man in a Hurry with the premise that if in a film like Les Untouchables spinal paralysis is funny, so stroke victims must be good for a laugh. Though, to give them credit, they do show recovering patient Fabrice Luchini a ward filled with grim fellow victims on respirators unable to move in their beds.
Derived from the non-fiction book “J'étais un homme pressé” by Christian Streiff, former CEO of Airbus and PSA Peugeot-Citroen, this one shows the rich Luchini character as a hard charging executive who intimidates his major shareholder Yves Jacques with the threat of resigning. He has lost contact with his teenage daughter Rebecca Marder through neglect. He’s having his way over the new proposed electric car model even adjusting the wave lines on the show room display without worrying about the feelings of junior executives. It takes all the Luchini charm to make this guy acceptable.
After a bad night, he collapses on the way to work and it’s only the prompt action of his chauffeur, actor Gus, in driving him to the hospital that saves him.
Now we get into the story. Still in denial, Luchini is made to realise that he has lost his control of language, this with a major address to an executive meeting in Geneva coming up - jokes like him greeting people by saying goodbye and other malapropisms that must have given the sub-titlers nightmares. His ordering a turd from an unfazed waiter at the corner cafe defeats them.
He recruits hospital speech therapist Leïla Bekhti full time and starts to develop drills to restore his lost vocabulary and his memory of the layout of his district. Bored with the kids’ picture books she uses, he switches to the Jardin des Plantes menagerie and its real animals.
Drone shot downwards on a speeding express train and we get a King’s Speech scene in Geneva where he manages splendidly with minimum aid from Bekhti, sitting next to him with prompt cards. This makes the company stock lift by two points which delights him only to finds his younger rival is dismissive of such a paltry gain and has given him ten minutes to clean out his desk. Luchini offers to find a new spot for his longserving secretary only to find that she can’t face unemployment at her age and has signed on with the new management.
There is a nice scene with dole clerk Eric Wapler who recognises Luchini’s problems from his own family experience.
At which point the film starts again as Luchini settles in to sort out the relationships with his daughter (that doesn’t go too well) and Béhkti, before his European hiking tour accompanied by his faithful dog - much stamping of his passport and alpine scenics. The scene setting is particularly deft in this one.
They manage to graft a happy ending on all this. The central performance is superior but when they’ve set up support players so well - skate boarding intern Igor Gotesman, the chauffeur who is surprised to be thanked by the normally brusque executive etc, it’s unsatisfying to not find their stories given an outcome.
It's more foreign feel good cinema which should fill up the local art cinemas for a few weeks.