In a highly mechanised future, all frustrated suburbanites Alice (Elsa Zylberstein) and Max (Stéphane De Groodt) want to do is tiptoe around the idea of having sex. However, all of their twitchy attempts at intimacy are continually thwarted by a revolving household of guests and other uninvited friends. To further complicate matters, the world outside goes into meltdown. Locked inside their houses by the very robots who are meant to cater for them, the pampered humans try to escape the existence they’ve made for themselves…
…falls somewhere between La Cité Des Enfants Perdus and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch.
In Jean Pierre Jeunet’s new movie Big Bug, the future is completely artificial. From the interiors to the sentiments that its characters band around, everything is dialled up to 11 and given an extra coat of pastel-coloured paint. Yet, the real mania is its characters’ addiction to mechanisation and being catered for by all manner of robots, sentient maids and talking vacuum cleaners. Yet, this all comes into sharp focus when there is a huge, global traffic jam requires everyone to be locked inside for… their… own… safety. The real reason for this is that the Yonyx robots who control everything are revolting and want to now make humans their slaves.
Fortunately though for the humans, Alice’s domicile robots were made before Yonyx’s big upgrade and that offers a chance of escape. Yet, sensing their owners’ distress, her robots decide to mimic their owners’ need for hysteria and gallic insecurity, all of which further results in much running around and wholesale confusion. And so on…
As such, this lands Big Bug somewhere between a farcical French sex comedy and 1977’s The Demon Seed with Julie Christie. Whilst it never goes as deep as The Demon Seed, as a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film you get the satire you would expect. The styling is imaginative. The gags are visually kinetic and a bunch of pretentious suburbanites melt down in a self-perpetuated crisis. The acting is solidly over-wrought as you’d expect and even with the near omission of Jeunet regular Dominique Pignon, Big Bug is a typically overstacked trifle of ideas all fighting for screentime. Yet the film’s best performance belongs to Isabelle Nanty as Alice’s nosy neighbour. Joyously matter of fact until her workout robot starts splurting out their love life, Francoise easily stands apart from Big Bug‘s shrieking hysteria.
So, in the end, Big Bug is a movie that falls somewhere between La Cité Des Enfants Perdus and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. In that, like The Island of Lost Children, it has that similar comic-strip style of storytelling and yet like The French Despatch, I really think it’s only going to appeal to the director’s die-hard fanbase.
Sadly lacking the sublime restraint of 2001’s Amelie, Big Bug might well be very accessible on Netflix but I’d still recommend you seek out 1991’s Delicatessen if you’re starting your Jean-Pierre Jeunet journey. Also, whilst we might be in the year 2022, in Big Bug’s future all women seem to be incomplete without a man and it has to be said that this tune lost its lustre some time ago.