“At first it was horrible, but then it got worse.”
In the French comedy film A Crime in Paradise mild-mannered goat farmer Jojo Braconnier (Jacques Villeret) is married to Lulu (Josiane Balasko). They live on a farm called Paradise in a sleepy French village, and all the village inhabitants are fully aware that Jojo and Lulu are unhappily married. It’s not really a question of whether violence will occur between these two–it’s only a question of who will do it first. Lulu is a very unpopular, friendless woman in the village–she’s sour, rude, and perpetually drunk. On the other hand, Jojo is a popular character, and the villagers feel sorry for him.
The Braconniers’ rotten marriage has reached the end-stage when the only pleasure derived from the relationship is the torture they inflict on each other. Petty grievances escalate to major acts of destruction, and one evening Jojo watches a murder case on late-night television. Following the conclusion of a sensational murder trial in which the accused was acquitted, the lawyer Jacquard (Andre Dussollier) appears in an interview. The programme gives Jojo ideas, but Lulu is brewing ideas of her own….
The film doesn’t really cover any new territory, but it’s an entertaining light French comedy nonetheless. Jacques Villeret–the French Danny DeVito–possesses a naivete that comes to the fore in the trial scenes. But it’s Andre Dussollier who steals the film with his subtle performance of the lawyer Jacquard, and some of the funniest scenes take place between Jojo and Villeret as they discuss the case. When Villeret conjures up a fact to use in Jojo’s defense, he hides his glee behind his polished supercilious legal facade. While this is ostensibly a comedy, the film is also a thinly veiled whack at the often-questionable morality of the legal system. Directed by Jean Becker, A Crime in Paradise is in French with English subtitles.