Teddy Lussi-Modeste’s French-language film, The Price of Success, has about as much subtlety as a sledgehammer. I counted three instances in the film where the plot was recapped just in case the audience wasn’t paying attention five minutes prior, and the moral directive of the importance of getting along with your sibling might as well be written in big, bold letters.
Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) plays Brahim Mecheri, a successful Arab comedian. Roschdy Zem plays his brother and manager, Mourad, a man who is deemed by others to be a “brain-dead” jerk. Many, including Brahim’s girlfriend, Linda (Maïwenn), advise Rahim to seek new management and new horizons. Needless to say for this one-note plot, Mourad doesn’t take the contract termination lightly.
Based on my synopsis, I’m sure you can guess the “price of success” in this morality tale. I was initially excited for the novel premise of witnessing the challenges of a comedian who hails from a visible minority group – especially a group that has been increasingly marginalized as of late – but Brahim’s career and livelihood as comedian could easily be replaced in the film by a rock star, actor, artist or any other fame-seeking profession. It really feels like a fill in the blank exercise, and no innovative or revolutionary aspects about a profession, let alone comedy, are highlighted here (Master of None this is not). The film appears to want to raise the point that success is difficult for a subset of the population that is used to failure (or marginalization), but does not spend enough time discussing (or demonstrating) this important idea.
Some dramatic nuance is achieved during a dinner scene where Linda meets most of Brahim’s family for the first time. Linda is immediately asked questions about marriage and child-bearing, whereas Brahim is attempting to tell his brother that he wants a new manager. This is one of the very rare instances in the film where two ideas are being juggled at once, but not for long. The issue of Linda’s acceptance into the family is promptly dropped until the very end.
Characters are in service to a plot that attempts to create a contemporary Cain and Abel. To top it off, Brahim’s comedic sets (which total less than five minutes of runtime) are not funny. Brahim may be able to fill up 6,200 seats, but no need to rush to the theatre for this one.
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