Directed by Francis Veber, starring Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, Thierry Lhermitte, Michèle Laroque, Michel Aumont, Alexandra Vandernoot and Stanislas Crevillén.
Francois Pignon (Auteuil) is a middle-aged accountant whose life is one long tunnel of tedium. His humdrum existence doesn't actually stem from the path his life has taken, it stems more from the fact that he's just an incredibly boring individual. So boring in fact that his beautiful wife Christine (Vandernoot) has upped and left, taking with her their 17-year-old son Franck (Crevillén). The latter now avoids his father for fear the boredom trait is contagious, while Christine maintains only minimal contact – a token nod at Pignon's paternity rather than any gesture of goodwill.
Things get even worse when Pignon overhears a discussion to the tune that he's about to be fired. Wifeless, lifeless and about to be jobless, Pignon contemplates suicide before salvation arrives from the most unlikely source. New neighbour Belone (Aumont), a retired industrial psychologist, provides a sympathetic ear and convinces Pignon that there is, in fact, a solution. His suggestion? To start a rumour that Pignon is gay. Initially dismissive of this simple but outrageous advice, the peremptorily straight Pignon realises he has absolutely nothing to lose and agrees to go along with the charade.
The results are remarkable. Pignon's colleagues, people who had hitherto barely noticed his existence, begin to pay attention to his every move; his ex-wife starts returning his calls and his son is more than happy to share his company. Miraculously, emerging from a closet he never went into has also managed to save his job – bosses at the condom factory in which he works won't risk his sacking lest it incurs accusations that they're anti-homosexuality.
Ostensibly a comedy about how we see things, how we choose to see things, and of how reality and perception are often poles apart, 'The Closet' also works as an analysis of the change in social norms. The fleeting revelation that Belone lost his job twenty years previously for precisely the same reason that Pignon is able to keep his is probably the most tender scene in the entire film. Veber's loose directorial style gives the piece enough room in which to develop at an agreeable pace.
The film's success is also down to the subtly focused performance of Auteuil. In fact, the performances across the board are impressive, with perhaps the exception of Gérard Depardieu, whose turn as a colleague who goes from being a bullying, macho homophobe to a snivelling, nervous wreck is wildly over the top. Ultimately, Veber has created a film which manages to be both humorous and thought-provoking. And while it's often quite flippant in its outlook, it still manages to make some valuable points on the nature of perception and identity.
A pleasant charmer, and in an age where comedies are too often of the teen-targeted gross-out variety, we should all be happy with that.