The Mystery of Henri Pick (M) - 101 minutes
He made pizzas for a living in Brittany, in France’s northwest.
Who could have guessed Henri Pick was a deep thinking and gifted author (so much so that he could juxtapose Russian poet, playwright and novelist Alexander Pushkin with the last throes of a relationship)?
The answer is no-one. Not his wife, Madeleine (Josiane Stoleru). Not his daughter, Josephine (Camille Cottin). They never knew he could even write ... other than the most basic of prose in a letter.
But let me step back a moment.
That “author” has since passed on and his hidden masterpiece is found by a junior publisher, Daphne Despero (Alice Isaaz), amongst a treasure trove of unpublished manuscripts in a small French village.
So excited is she by this “find” that she immediately sends it to print.
The work becomes an instant hit, universally praised for its insightfulness.
The author’s wife is invited onto a television show that focuses on new works and the compere, Fabrice Luchini (Jean-Michel Rouche), creates havoc by questioning whether her husband was the actual writer.
So, has a literary hoax, indeed, been perpetrated and if so by whom and why?
Finding an answer to those questions is the core of this comedic drama.
The tenacious sleuth is the arrogant TV host and respected critic, subsequently sacked from the program for his unsympathetic line of questioning.
It becomes his personal mission to get to the truth, with no shortage of cryptic clues and missteps along the way.
Based on a novel by David Foenkinos, the screenplay is by Remi Bezancon (who also directs) and Vanessa Portal.
While a largely enjoyable romp, The Mystery of Henri Pick becomes too convoluted for its own good, chasing clues down proverbial drainpipes.
Its levity, too, takes away from what could have been something mighty special.
I love the idea of a literary whodunnit, but of course its success comes down to its execution.
I would have liked less lightness of touch and more straight drama so that I could have taken the premise more seriously.
But that was not to be, as the script on occasions even disintegrated into the slapstick.
Still, Rouche does a good job with what he had to work with, ably channelling a self-absorbed blowhard.
Around him the support players assume their roles without any real standouts.
I liked the quaint village setting and the hometown feel of the piece.
But the positives, in combination, were not enough to alleviate my reservations when it came to treating the subject matter with the gravitas I feel it deserved.
Still, many will likely appreciate The Mystery of Henri Pick for what it is.
Rated M, it scores a 6½ out of 10.