I knew nothing about this French drawing room farce before seeing it, yet walking out I was certain it had to be based on a successful play – and indeed it is. Making its stage origins obvious is the restricted setting, a bourgeois Parisian apartment during a calamitous dinner party, while the clue to its popularity (the film was also a big domestic hit) lies in the sheer polish of its construction, which locates it in a tradition reaching back through The Dinner Game and La Cage aux Folles to farceur Georges Feydeau.
Stressed-out hosts Elisabeth (Valérie Benguigui) and Pierre (Charles Berling) find their intimate soirée going wrong the moment her crass brother Vincent (Patrick Bruel) reveals the shocking name chosen for the baby his wife Anna (Judith El Zein) is carrying. Issues of good taste and responsibility gradually give way to class prejudice and shocking revelation.
Adapting their own material, directors Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de la Patelliere keep it all moving at breakneck speed while adding necessary moments of repose, and the actors (who, with the exception of Berling, reprise their stage roles) give it their all. But while it’s always engaging and often amusing, I can’t say it’s especially hilarious.
What’s in a Name? is released in theatres July 25