Days after George Miller echoed in a new age of action cinema with the 2.67 second average shot length (cutting-rate) in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, ‘La Loi du Marché’ (English title: ‘The Measure of a Man’) serves as a reminder that not everyone’s making films with such urgency.
If this low-key drama about the trials and tribulations of middle-aged manhood is anything to go by, Stéphane Brizé (director) is still wary of upping the pace.
Vincent Lindon stars as Thierry, a 51-year-old husband and father to a disabled teenage son. After he’s laid off from his factory job, Thierry finds it increasingly difficult to support his family financially and he’s left with a single option, supermarket security.
But, oh, how the film would’ve benefitted from such concise storytelling. Instead, Brizé drags out the 90-minute running time as if it were 120 and leaves us with a sincere, but unsatisfactory, drama.
The film has an able lead in Lindon and his honest performance is by far the film’s strongest suit. Thank god, quite frankly, because Brizé strange reliance on close-ups means that the vast majority of the running time is spent lingering on Thierry’s world-weary face. And, while this detail-focused approach suits the lead, in the end, Brizé seems more interested in the contents of strangers’ shopping baskets than in his supporting characters.
This mistreatment of side characters is most obvious during two important exchanges, which are left dominated by a pair of weak performances. In another film, they would be hidden, or at least softened, by the energetic editing. But, Brizé’s long takes let it all hang out – both the good and the bad – and the fact that the two actresses are so obviously ‘acting’ also ensures their work sits jarringly at odds with the naturalistic performances from the rest of the cast.
These two weak links also result in an otherwise jarring dramatic beat falling hopelessly flat. It’s a moment that came by at a time when a real surprise was long overdue, but, alas, the disappointment continued.
That being said, the film does have its moments, albeit fleetingly – Christmas in the supermarket hit particularly close to home – but the interminable length of Brizé’s shots/scenes ensures they’re far too infrequent.
Also problematic was the film’s ‘comedic’ side. Now cultural differences may have played a role here, but I seemed to be the odd one out when left stony faced by the ‘laughs’, and much of the audience seemed to get behind the cynical humour in a way I simply couldn’t.
Thierry Tagourdeau is a promising character brought to life by a fine performance from Lindon, but he deserves a better movie than this. Tough is fine, but ‘The Measure of a Man’ too often comes across as punishing.