“The Worst Ones” (“Les pires”)
Rotten Tomatoes (2/5), Metacritic (4/10), Letterboxd (2/5), Imdb.com (4/10), TMDB.com (4/10)
At the risk of sounding snarky, the title of this debut feature from writer-directors Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret could be interpreted in multiple (and unflattering) ways. Suffice it to say, however, this documentary-style drama about a filmmaker seeking to cast his production with nonprofessional actors from a low-income neighborhood (i.e., ghetto) in suburban northern France presents a haphazard mélange of story threads that seem more meandering than insightful or enlightening. The four protagonists who are selected for this fictional work become disapprovingly known as “the worst ones” for supposedly having the most notorious reputations in the neighborhood (though, when honestly compared to many of their contemporaries, they don’t come across as significantly different from the rest of the locals). While this offering seems to be attempting to convey how their everyday existence mirrors that of the characters they’re portraying, that goal is never clearly delineated nor effectively achieved, making viewers wonder what’s really going on in their off-screen lives (not to mention in the parts they’ve taken on in a story that seems to make little sense). To cloud matters further, in an attempt to show (rather than tell about) what the lives of these youthful actors are like, the picture genuinely feels more improvised than structured. What’s more, claims that this film offers a gritty, groundbreaking look into the challenge-filled lives of the economically underprivileged are vastly overstated, given that this territory has already been covered (and better) numerous times before in such other French releases as “Girlhood” (2014), “Dheepan” (2015), “Les Misérables” (2019) and “Gagarine” (2020), not to mention in an array of releases from many other countries. This is all compounded by the fact that much of the narrative is tedious, unfocused, imbalanced, boring and even silly at times. Indeed, how this release managed to capture the 2022 Cannes Film Festival Un Certain Regard Award genuinely escapes me. The underlying aim behind this picture may have arguably been a noble one, but its poorly planned execution and jumbled final cut fail to make that apparent, undoing whatever good might have been intended. Skip this one.