It’s refreshing to see a movie like The Château, a comedy that swings and jostles to the rhythms of life. Working with a handheld camera and a cast that knows how to improvise, the young director Jesse Peretz has come up with a small-scale satire that is shrewd, flaky, deadpan, and charming.
It’s about two adoptive brothers, one a white boho dork in horn-rims (Paul Rudd), the other a black, shaven-headed entrepreneur (Romany Malco), who inherit a crumbly French estate, complete with hogs and moat, from an obscure great-uncle. They arrive at the château intent on selling it off, only to be met by the house staff, a collection of amusingly diffident Gallic servants who have other ideas. It all sounds broad enough to be a Roberto Benigni farce, except that Peretz shoots the cross-cultural fumblings as an entirely plausible send-up of mutual French and American antipathies.
Rudd, an ace comedian, babbles away in broken subtitles like a slacker Bob Hope, and newcomer Romany Malco has an acerbic authority. If anyone steals the movie, though, it’s Sylvie Testud, who never lets on whether the sexy French country maid she’s playing is mournfully obtuse or embodies the wisdom of the ages.