Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
Microbe and Gasoline - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Microbe and Gasoline
Directing: B-
Acting: B
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

Fans of the stylistic fancifulness of Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep) might be disappointed by Microbe and Gasoline, which is unusually straightforward for this director. So much so that, honestly, it's not as exceptional as its marketers clearly want us to expect from it.

I mean, okay, a couple of fourteen-year-olds building a tiny house car that they drive across the French countryside is not exactly something you see every day. But, at its heart, this movie is just another coming-of-age story about two friends who find themselves growing up a little. It is otherwise unremarkable, and has a disappointing lack of thematic depth.

The kids, Ange Dargent and Théophile Banquet as Daniel and Théo respectively, are serviceable performers. They act like pretty normal kids their age. Gondry just doesn't seem to have anything particularly incisive to say about it. So, we just go along with these teenagers who run away in this tiny mobile house they built themselves.

There's a couple of odd interludes. A dentist with apparent empty nest syndrome pleads with them to stay in his kids' bedrooms, and suggests he may work on their teeth the next day. A botched haircut occurs inside a Korean whorehouse.

Maybe it's just me. Microbe and Gasoline is getting pretty good reviews: critics seem to like it. It doesn't seem to have much in the way of populist appeal, though: it's clearly not packing theaters. Few foreign films do, of course -- this is spoken entirely in French. And the concept is intriguing enough. The story managed only to keep me barely interested. More than once I wondered when something interesting might happen.

I guess there's this: the title refers to nicknames given to these two boys by school bullies. Daniel is "Microbe" because he is small. He also has shaggy, longish hair and regularly gets mistaken for a girl. Théo is "Gasoline" because both he and his dad are mechanics and so the kids say he smells like gasoline. Maybe he does. One can assume that before long they both smell of nothing but body odor -- they go days on end living in this tiny mobile house they've run away in. There's no shower in there. They're shown getting very dirty but somehow their inevitable stench never comes up.

Their parents are strangely two dimensional. It's nice to see Audrey Tautou as Daniel's mother, but she's bizarrely forgiving of not just his strange and sometimes vandalizing behavior at home, but even of his running away. He apparently doesn't have a father; one is never mentioned anyway. Théo's mother makes him cook dinner but complains about what he makes. She's also ill. His dad is just generally an asshole. This is all we really learn about any of them. They otherwise serve as little more than plot props.

There is something pure and appealing about this friendship between two oddballs who find kindred spirits in each other. It's difficult to get more specific than that, which is part of the problem. Gondry seems to present this film as something more amusing than it really is. There's nothing terribly inept about it, but it's also difficult not to react to it with general indifference. And this is a guy who tends to make very memorable films with cinematic techniques all his own, seemingly invented on the fly. He's known as a visionary. But this movie is merely pleasant, ultimately forgettable. There's nothing visionary about it. It just sort of . . . is.

Ange Dargent and Théophile Banquet are MICROBE AND GASOLINE.

Overall: B-
Leave a comment