Film review – The Closet (2001)

The Closet (Le Placard) sees a comic dodgy premise – about a suicidal divorcee pretending to be gay in order to exploit a company’s anti-discrimination paranoia – handled magnificently. Francis Veber also wrote and directed The Dinner Game; although Veber’s direction in this new film is fairly bland, his script makes it far superior to its overrated predecessor.

Daniel Auteuil plays Francois Pignon; the depressed accountant who allows rumours to spread that he is gay when he finds out he is about to be fired. Auteuil displays a sad comic charm that is Chaplinesque in his ability to make us laugh and sympathise simultaneously. Gerard Depardieu also excels as Felix Santini, the macho homophobe who tries to befriend Pignon to lose his reputation as a thuggish gay-basher. Felix’s stupidity and overcompensated attempts at appearing open-minded are the source of much of the humour.

The Closet also shows the dark side of the ignorance surrounding perceptions of homosexuality. Veber reveals that although a lot of progress has been made, there are still many culturally embedded prejudices that can manifest as either condescending and tokenistic ‘acceptance’, or outright hatred and violence. Nevertheless The Closet is a very funny film that is free from the queer stereotypes that are often exploited for cheap laughs. The transformation, or ‘evolution’, of some of the characters is also genuinely heart-warming.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 141, 2001

© Thomas Caldwell, 2001