Enjoy The Silence
Mr. Bean's Holiday / Agent Bedhead
Film Reviews | August 24, 2007 | Comments ()
A lot can be said about acquired tastes and the defense thereof. Acquiring taste for the flavors of caviar, scotch, and abstract art is largely regarded as an honorable pursuit. The reward of refined and exotic new pleasures are, presumably, rewards for suffering through the difficulty of learning to enjoy these tastes. At a streetside sushi bar, those who partake laugh heartily at a miserable-looking fashion victim who totters by in $450 Manolos with five-inch heels. Similarly, cinematic arbiters of taste will endure every single one of Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger’s films merely because they’ve won Academy Awards. None of these cultural connoisseurs would ever suspect that perhaps their own superior tastes could possibly suffer from the same degree of insincerity as the fashion victim. In Mr. Bean’s Holiday, acquired tastes are veritably drop-kicked by our goosekicking, affable hero, Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson). As an avid reader of film criticism, you’re not supposed to like Mr. Bean. He’s not smart. He’s not sophisticated. He’s definitely not handsome. He may only know three words of French (oui, non and gracias), but Mr. Bean’s Holiday really doesn’t need your approval to succeed. Before crossing over to this side of the pond, the film had already grossed $200 million worldwide. Certainly, audiences have enjoyed this film, but to admit it would be too gauche for words. Although Bean is a staple of English comedy, he’s not exactly part of American dinner conversations. This last detail is, of course, a moot issue because everyone knows that dinnertime is supposed to be reserved for the strategic volleying of insults at the “Idol” contestants de jour.
Ten years ago, the first Mr. Bean film, Bean, mistakenly attempted to cater to American tastes. This strategy ultimately backfired, and in doing so, the original film betrayed the Bean character Atkinson had so carefully crafted in the silent comic tradition of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. British filmmaker and TV director Steve Bendelack has reworked the movie character, and with Mr. Bean’s Holiday, no time is wasted in redeeming Bean, who scores a winning raffle ticket for a free vacation to the South of France. On his way, Bean gets lost in Paris and solves his problem by pointing his compass in the right direction and forging a straight path in manner of Keaton. As chaos unfolds in his wake, Bean effortlessly walks over park benches, onto car roofs, and through traffic to reach the connecting train to Cannes. He then encounters Stepan (Max Baldry) at a train station when the 10-year-old becomes separated from his father, who is on his way to judge at the Cannes Film Festival. While “rescuing” Stepan, Bean loses his wallet and passport, but together, the two unlikely pals set off towards Cannes. During all of this, Bean’s other raffle prize, a video camera, records all of the mishaps along the way. While seemingly arbitrary, this film footage plays an important role upon arrival at their destination.
At several points in the film, Bean unwittingly pisses off American indie auteur Carson Clay (Willem Dafoe), who is also Cannes bound. The casting of Dafoe, who has never directed a film but has been credited as an actor in 70 films under some of the most pretentious directors in the business (e.g., David Lynch, Troy Duffy), speaks of the general genius of this film’s supporting cast. At one point, the slumbering Bean confusedly awakens from his straw pillow to find himself within the production of a World War II scene in rural France. When Bean screws everything up, the exasperated Carson fires Bean while screaming, “I’m trying to create art here!” As the audience soon realizes, this highly complex production is for a yogurt commercial. After the shoot wraps, Stepan and Bean catch a ride with French actress Sabine (Emma de Caunes), who is headed towards Cannes for her first premiere. Upon their arrival, Bean promptly wreaks havoc during Carson Clay’s Playback Time — a film produced by, directed by, and starring Carson Clay — that represents every ego-driven, film-within-a-film, pile of metacrap that annually and collectively cures Cannes from insomnia. No doubt, the Cannes audience thanked Bean for it.
Atkinson has hinted that this will be the last film or television appearance by this character. If so, then Mr. Bean’s Holiday puts Bean to rest with damn respectable performances by Atkinson and his supporting actors. The sheer physical comedy and detailed facial expressions of Bean are so amusing that his lack of forthcoming dialogue is never an issue. Even the lack of profanity and vulgarity doesn’t affect the film’s constant humor. As much as a nice round of sex jokes and bodily functions appeals to audiences of comedy, these things seem rather unnecessary for this story. As a result, the wholesomeness of Mr. Bean’s Holiday seems to have occurred by mistake, much like what happens to Bean himself. The result is a surprisingly hilarious (although slightly cheerier than expected) film that won’t find you covering your kid’s eyes. Although our acquired film tastes might frown upon finding enjoyment in such unsophisticated fare, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to remember simple, child-like pleasures. This film reminds us of what it was like to be a 10-year-old child with enthusiasm for the yet unvarnished world. You might even leave the theater wondering what the hell you were so pissed off about.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma and doesn’t do high heels. She also shows up daily at agentbedhead.com.