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Despite strong cast, French comedy drama ‘Sink or Swim’ mainly does the former

Mathieu Amalric and Marina Foïs, in the film “Sink or Swim.”
Mathieu Amalric and Marina Foïs in the movie “Sink or Swim.”
(LevelFilm)

Somewhere between a splash and a belly-flop is the French comic-drama “Le Grand Bain,” which instead of getting translated as “The Big Bath” for American audiences has been retitled “Sink or Swim,” ironically a more accurate reflection of how one regards each scene in this choppily assembled male-crisis story. (They mostly sink.)

When out-of-work suburban family man Bertrand (Mathieu Amalric) trades his all-day bathrobe for swim trunks, it’s to see if joining a municipal pool’s men’s synchronized swimming team will restore his pride. But it’s a depressive/foolish bunch of participants, including a hotheaded dad (Guillaume Canet), a never-was rock musician (Jean-Hugues Anglade) and a failing businessman (Benoit Poelvoorde). Even the group’s younger, former-pro female coach (Virginie Efira) has self-care issues.

Veering between sentimental and salty, philosophical and goofy, writer/director Gilles Lellouche’s Gallic stab at a “Full Monty”-style uplifter is too waterlogged with the genre’s well-worn staples (training comedy, bite-sized humiliations) and too uninterested in story/character details (turning paunchy mopers into athletic competitors) to offer anything truly refreshing about the solution to middle-aged dejection. The irony is that the men’s final performance at the championships in Norway is touching enough that the lack of attention to how these misfits could have realistically gotten there makes “Sink or Swim” all the more frustrating.

‘Sink or Swim’
In French with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes

Playing: Starts Oct. 11, Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles


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