© X Verleih/Warner Bros.

Online für Anfänger (Delete History, Effacer l'historique)
France/Belgium 2020

Opening 28 Oct 2021

Directed by: Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern
Writing credits: Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern
Principal actors: Blanche Gardin, Denis Podalydès, Corinne Masiero, Vincent Lacoste, Benoît Poelvoorde

Marie (Blanche Gardin) has one leg in reality, i.e., her quickly emptying house, and another in impracticality whereby she repeatedly acts on a whim. Especially when imbibing, e.g., like visiting her teenage son late at night without husband’s knowledge. Whereas, having faced her demons, Christine (Corinne Masiero) is now desperately trying to develop independence via an Uber-like business. Although, as a driver bending over backward to win “likes” and increase her customer base, getting only one-star ad infinitum from clients drives her berserk. While Bertrand (Denis Podalydès de la Comédie-Française), freshly widowed with a 13-year-old (Clementine Peyricot) to support, cook for, defend (against cyberbullying), et cetera, just wants some lovin’. These middle-aged neighbors are also friends, and on call to help one another out. That support is paramount at this particular juncture in time, since all three are drowning in Internet-related woes; so-called innovative products, they discover, are actually counter-productive and worsened their situations. Together they reach out to “hacker God” to put their world in order.

Co-writers/directors Benoît Delépine (France) and Gustave Kervern’s (Mauritius) nebulously funny script’s comedic timing is belabored, out of sync, and some of the episodical scenes feel staged, e.g., the teenager being bullied is cringe-worthy. In all fairness, the lead actors’ efforts are valiant, considering their characters self-absorption defies credibility, and are shallow rather than simpatico. Stéphane Elmadjian’s heavy-handed, awkwardly paced editing emphasizes the film’s sluggishness; Hugues Poulain is cinematographer.

The digital-domination themes strung throughout Online für Anfänger are well-worth exploring, but in a film with a tighter, more suitable plot. Anfänger’s humor may appeal to some but be forewarned, this is far from a feel-good flick. Its essentially depressingly candid message is to consider current societies lifestyle dependencies, including “social” media that is emblematic of a deeper, bigger social disease. (Marinell Haegelin)

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