In the House

Directed By: François Ozon

Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, Yolande Moreau, and Denis Ménochet

I write so many reviews that I find myself struggling sometimes to get a review started.  Writing my fifth review this weekend, I've once again found myself in this very familiar place, stuck on the introduction.  I don't have a damn clue what to write to get this review on In the House going.  Fittingly, this indie is a film that's all about writing.  Maybe I can take a lesson or two from François Ozon's latest.

Germain (Fabrice Luchini) is a writing teacher at a local high school.  In his first week with the students, he asks them to write about their weekend.  For the most part, he gets a load of poorly written garbage back from his pupils.  There is one student from his sophomore C class who exhibits some potential, a sixteen year-old boy by the name of Claude (Ernst Umhauer).  This boy opts to write about the time he's spent tutoring his new friend Rapha (Bastien Ughetto) and getting to know his parents Rapha Sr. and Esther (Denis Ménochet and Emmanuelle Seigner.  Claude turns this ordinary weekend into something so intriguing on paper that Germain decides to personally help his talented pupil as a writer.

While working with Germain, Claude oddly decides to focus all of his writing on Rapha's family and the time that he spends with them.  As he continues to write about his visits in this family's house with particular focus on Rapha's mother Esther and her middle class curves, it becomes more and more apparent that he's not just embellishing the minute details of his life and writing a fictional story.  Claude desires Esther and is fantasizing about her in his writing for Germain.  It's apparent that he's waiting for his opportunity to strike.  Though it's highly unusual, Germain ignores the warning signs believing that these are the harmless desires of a teen boy.  He's more concerned with seeing how well Claude can write when his gifts are cultivated, regardless of the circumstances.  Meanwhile, Germain's wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) struggles to keep her art exhibit open.

In the House really surprised me.  I expected your basic everyday indie with an extra dash of weirdness.  What I got was a deft, nuanced exploration of fixation and obsession.  Director François Ozon really gets into the nuts and bolts of what makes weirdoes tick, what motivates them and what fascinates them.  For Claude, that's working with Germain and getting closer to middle class woman Esther.  For Germain, that's seeing how far Claude will really go with his extracurricular activities and how well he can write about it.  Ultimately, Ozon crafts one sick film, but it's undeniably entertaining.

Ozon offers a smart story filled with smart characters.  Naturally, sensuality is ever-present throughout this movie that's fueled by a teen boy's desires.  There's even a healthy dose of comic relief.  All of this is made possible by some strong, diverse performances from Ozon's cast.  Ernst Umhauer delivers a devilishly manipulative and seemingly cunning Claude.  For his part, Fabrice Luchini gives us an inquisitive, witty teacher Germain.  Also, Kristin Scott Thomas delivers plenty of sass as Jeanne.  All in all, In the House is well-acted all around.

In the House even surprised me with its ending.  Ozon admittedly caught me off guard.  Though I obviously won't reveal the ending, I must say that it's a bold and unexpected move.  When I think about it, however, it's the only way the story really could have ended.

Altogether, Ozon has put together an excellent indie thriller that will satisfy on so many levels.  In the House gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.