The amiable Gerard Depardieu road film Going Places translates as Les Valseuses, a French slang word for testicles. If one title suggests generic romantic comedy, the other holds slightly more promise for an audacious and raunchy good time. Truthfully, Going Places is a little of both, which makes it a fun but somewhat unsatisfying and vague watch.
In the role that thrust him into stardom, Depardieu is a delight as Jean-Claude, an aimless lummox who gets off on committing petty crimes and chasing women with the help of best friend Pierrot (Patrick Dewaere, also very good). We first see Jean-Claude and Pierrot trailing and harassing a hefty lady in an apartment complex, a tense bit which turns lighthearted when the guys are chased through the streets by a mob of angry neighbors. It's typical of the way the film constantly plays with the viewer's empathy. We know these guys are assholes out for cheap thrills, yet we can't help but like them anyhow.
Like an impulsively planned road trip, Going Places doesn't so much move as lope along fitfully while the two guys have one edgy misadventure after another. On an auto stealing jaunt, the guys run into a local salon proprietor and his fetching employee/mistress Marie-Ange, played by actress Miou Miou. The two abduct Marie-Ange, and in the process of escaping Pierrot is wounded. Over the course of the film, Marie-Ange becomes the friends' sex partner, cook, confidant, and surrogate mom - but never quite their equal.
There are a few watchable episodes in which the men provoke a grocery store manager, hound a woman nursing a baby on a train, and explore a seaside village that's been deserted in the off-season. People react to the guys' boorishness in all the expected ways. Eventually, the two meet their match in Jeanne Moreau's character Jeanne, an older but still alluring woman that they guys meet on the assumption that recently sprung prison inmates are an easy lay. Jeanne allows Jean-Claude and Pierrot to take her clothes shopping and treat her to a meal at a nice restaurant. Jean-Claude is especially taken with Jeanne, who has the intelligence to know that she's being manipulated and thus manipulates them right back. It's a fascinating bit, with an excellent turn from Moreau.
Once Moreau exits the scene, the film goes back into a more routine road trip territory as the guys reunite with Marie-Ange. Jean-Claude and Pierrot track down Jeanne's son and take him to a lovely country house (exactly whose house is never explained), where Marie-Ange is waiting to sexually service the teen. She reaches orgasm for the first time with the boy, which infuriates Jean-Claude and Pierrot. The film rambles on some more as the trio attempt to travel the country in various stolen vehicles. By the time Isabelle Huppert shows up as a pampered nymphet who desperately wants to run away with this Bonnie & Clyde & Clyde, my interest was waning.
Going Places coasts along on considerable charm, despite its weaknesses. The film has an endearing, very French attitude towards sex as something to be enjoyed and shared as often as possible (Depardieu even asks a sexual favor of Dewaere, who reluctantly goes along). Director Bertrand Bier managed to get some good performances out of the cast, despite their characters' less than savory personalities. Depardieu is utterly charismatic, a good contrast to the more muted, cynical Dewaere (who apparently did several French films before dying young). There's also a lot to like in Miou Miou, who is seen much of the time in the nude. The film never quite jells, however. It's never a good sign when a film ends with the viewer wondering what the point of it all was.
Kino Classics' DVD of Going Places presents the film with its original mono French soundtrack. It's a basic mix with clear vocals and the occasional loud-ish music.
The film is given a good treatment with the disc's anamorphic widescreen picture, all the better to appreciate the handsome scenery captured by cinematographer Bruno Nuyten. The picture is a bit grainy and on the green side, but given a solid DVD transfer.
The disc's modest extras include the film's French theatrical trailer (which uses crude drawings to comic effect) and a small stills gallery.
Going Places is sparked by some terrific performances, but unlike many road trips the film had nowhere to go, leaving me wondering what the filmmakers intended. The DVD is Recommended for fans of Gerard Depardieu and Jeanne Moreau, for all others I would advise Rent It.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist and sometime writer who lives in sunny (and usually too hot) Phoenix, Arizona. Among his loves are oranges, going barefoot and blonde 1930s movie comedienne Joyce Compton. Since 2000, he has been scribbling away at Pop Culture weblog Scrubbles.net. One can also follow him on Twitter @4colorcowboy.