City Paper is not for tourists
Kolya goes to reform school in The Chorus, merely the latest Miramax acquisition in which a lonely adult and an abandoned child end up accidentally redeeming each other. Director and co-writer Christophe Barratier’s drama opens with a successful conductor, about to go onstage in New York, who’s yanked into the past by a call from France. His mother is dead, although her funeral is only a device to return the grown-up Pierre (Winged Migration director and Chorus producer Jacques Perrin) to his late-’40s childhood. Before he was famous and comfortable, it seems, Pierre (Jean-Baptiste Maunier) was a student at the prisonlike Fond d’Etang (literally “Bottom of the Pond,” but translated here as “Rock Bottom”). Relinquished to the school by his attractive, overwhelmed single mom, Violette (Marie Bunel), Pierre is angel-faced but surly. Naturally, he doesn’t take to the school’s latest arrival, Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot), a frustrated, middle-aged composer reduced to supervising juvenile troublemakers. Yet Mathieu soon realizes that he prefers his duplicitous, uncivilized charges to his new boss, Rachin (François Berléand), the brutal, self-serving headmaster. And when the teacher discovers that Pierre has a voice to match his face, he’s inspired to start a chorus and begin composing again. Gradually, Mathieu’s leniency wins over some of the boys—especially the resident heart-tugger, little Pépinot (Maxence Perrin, the producer’s son), who waits every visiting day for the arrival of the parents everyone else knows are dead. Predictable, sentimental, and largely sanitized, The Chorus is quick to establish that its mode of bad education involves no pedophilia. True, the tale’s sweetness is sometimes offset by credible cruelties and disappointments—Mathieu’s crush on Pierre’s mother, for example, is neatly deflated—and neither the script nor Jugnot strains to make the decent but unglamorous teacher a romantic hero. The final gush of redemptions and connections, however, could induce glycemic shock. Even by the standards of other kid-meets-loner flicks, The Chorus’ last 10 minutes hit rock bottom.