The Price of Fame (La rançon de la gloire) has an interesting-enough hook. It is based on some true events that occurred in the seventies when two desperate crooks decided to steal the body of the legendary, Charlie Chaplin and hold it to ransom. The film is ultimately a letdown that is plagued by problems with its execution because it is overlong and has an uneven tone.
The award-winning, Xavier Beauvois (who won the Grand Prize Jury Award at Cannes for his film, Of Gods & Men) makes his first foray into comedy here. But The Price of Fame shows that jokes are a lot harder to execute than they initially appear. The film does take some liberties with the truth (the nationalities of the thieves are switched from Eastern Europeans to a Belgian and an Algerian) but it also attempts to have the audience empathise or understand why they undertook such a bizarre act.
We are initially introduced to Osman Bricha (Roschdy Zem), a hard-working local labourer and his wife (Nadine Labaki) who is in hospital because she requires expensive hip surgery that neither of them can afford. Osman’s friend meanwhile, is Eddy Ricaart (Benoît Poelvoorde). Riccart is released from prison and comes to live with his mate and Osman’s bright-eyed daughter (Séli Gmach) to help the latter with her homework as she has big ideas of going to university to become a vet. It is Eddy who has the harebrained idea to steal Chaplin’s body for ransom and Osman reluctantly agrees after facing up to his dire financial situation.
The best-laid plans don’t always work and this is the case here. The events in real-life didn’t succeed and nor does the depiction of these events on film. The pacing is tediously slow and the scenes are far too bland and verbose to sustain your attention. There are some jokes but most of these aren’t particularly funny and the dramatic elements are lacking suspense and emotion and really do not hook you in.
Beauvois also tries to marry up the story with some aspects of Chaplin’s life and even forces one of his characters to play the clown in a plotline that feels needlessly tacked on. The best part of this latter aspect is that it does mean the audience gets to see scenes from Chaplin’s silent films. But the overall execution feels quite heavy-handed and while this is an attempt to act as a tribute to Chaplin, the film boasts anything but a reverential air for the subject matter.
The Price of Fame is very weird but it had an intriguing-enough idea. The film is ultimately letdown by some adequate performances, long dialogue-driven scenes and a plot that seems a little to lightweight to carry a two hour film. At best this movie is inconsistent and it is as bumbling and strange as its two hapless protagonists.
Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Price of Fame premiered at the Sydney Film Festival.