Netflix makes a bold statement with its new hybrid-genre movie Je ne suis pas un homme facile (I Am Not An Easy Man). A gender-bending, farcical romantic comedy, the movie is set in an alternate universe run by women in which gender roles are completely reversed. In what Netflix describes as a “shameless chauvinist getting a taste of his own medicine,” Christophe (Pierre Benezit) must come to terms with this new world after hitting his head and awakening from a coma, all while falling in love with bullheaded writer Alexandra (Marie-Sophie Ferdane). The movie is written and directed by French filmmaker Eleonore Pourriat, who has made gender-bending movies with similar themes in the past.
The intended feminist message of the movie comes through clearly and adeptly. By employing some of the most extreme social gender stereotypes possible, the director unmasks their truly problematic nature of them. Her technique not only allows but also actually calls for a thorough examination of entrenched notions of gender and prescribed behavior in society.
The film does not try to make a statement about how all men and all women behave, but it effectively addresses the preconceived biases many people hold. In this way, the value of the film is derived from its provocativeness, and the way it forces audiences to question what they are watching.
Why does a woman holding a position of power, wearing a suit, drinking beer or making casually sexist statements strike viewers as absurd? Why do blatant dismissal and objectification of men seem so strange? The most compelling scene in the film is a discussion in which a central thematic question is posed: Shouldn’t men be grateful for their special treatment in society, like receiving gifts and having doors held open for them? This scene underscores a lack of understanding between the genders in the current dialogue.
The film employs dark but easily digestible comedy, striking a balance between well-scripted, witty dialogue and cheap, slapstick humor. Pourriat’s approach to comedy focuses on seemingly miniscule facets of the gender dynamics inherent within social interactions. Benezit’s acting thrives in this comedic environment, as he awkwardly tries to avoid but eventually falls in sync with the new social rules around him. Vincent Elbaz adds a hilarious element in his portrayal of Christophe’s best friend.
Overall, the movie suffers from a general predictability that limits what could have been one of Netflix’s best movies yet. The story follows a generic rom-com narrative arc, and the directing, editing and cinematography all reflect the genre’s familiar tropes. The premise, though well-executed, does not offer enough originality for the movie to warrant praise on that aspect alone; after all, there are plenty of other films with similar concepts. Within the first few scenes, the audience is able to predict the majority of the revelations that the characters will have in the film’s flipped world.
Despite the predictability, the movie is definitely worth watching. As a whole, Pourriat makes important contributions to the discussion of gender and discrimination in the 21st century, delivered in a comedic, palatable package.