I’m Not An Easy Man movie review: Éléonore Pourriat flips gender roles in this effective but flawed French comedy
I’m Not An Easy Man ponders over the possibility of being weighed down by the unbridled power one gender asserts over the other.
The most stimulating idea offered by I’m Not An Easy Man — the French Netflix original film — doesn’t lie in its sensational premise. It perhaps lies in the manner in which it subtly, maybe even inadvertently, explores human beings’ tendency to acclimatise to abrupt, even unreal, change before meekly accepting it as the new normal. For beneath its comic disguise, Eleonore Pourriat’s film wishes to present a portrait of sudden revolutionary upheaval as stuff only dreams are made of and whose correspondence with reality is remote yet only too familiar in a uniquely human way.
The ‘revolution’ in this case begins with a single, successful, silver tongued French lothario called Damien running into a pole. On coming to, he finds himself in a world where women are in charge and running the world in the way men did prior to his accident. While trying to make sense of the incessant cat-calling and casual sexism that for once is directed at him, he starts working as an assistant to Alexandra, a successful novelist. In this world, she is the female version of Damien, sleeping around with and drawing on her interactions with men for material for her books. As they begin to come closer to each other, Damien finds himself slowly getting used to this new reality even as he tries desperately to find a way out of it.
I’m Not An Easy Man’s stated aim is to simply present a picture of the world the way it would be if gender roles were reversed. It steers clear of engaging with the intellectual possibilities of a world where women would be truly in charge. This crucial directorial choice makes the narrative terribly familiar. It also ensures that the narrative remains staid and predictable. The true worth of the film lies in its tiny details that it doesn’t fail to exploit for full comic effect. Noteworthy here is the cheeky potshot at Contempt (and French film in general), Jean Luc Godard’s acknowledged masterpiece. Pourriat replaces Brigitte Bardot and her behind with a man beseeching a girl, now in control, for eternal love. Then there is the little strip of hair that Damien has to maintain between his nipples. Or the advertisements and fine art photography, the languorously stretched women now replaced by pouting, smouldering men. Rounding it all off are the male pole dancers.
As pointed out earlier, it is Damien’s slow slide into treating the unbearably strange as the normative that forms the most engaging strand of the film. That, and the gnawing discomfort that this abject objectification of the male body gradually building through the film. The male viewer is made witness to the hideousness of the modern world and the images that it conjures for entertainment that women are subjected to on a daily basis. A spectacle of flesh that threatens to reduce gender interactions to the purely exploitative by the seemingly innocent act of 'seeing.' In the absence of a great story in the film, we find ourselves smothered by the enormity of the injustice we are being subjected to due to this sudden reversal of roles. One can’t help but wonder at the possibility of being born in a world where this is the norm, a reality that women live with for the course of their natural lives. Running beneath the imposing concrete superstructure of this world is the invisible neural network of power wishing to assert itself through every cultural artifact.
I’m Not An Easy Man works best as a thought-provoking exercise, the cinematic version of a thought experiment where the subject becomes so tied up with the hypothesis that he finds himself sinking in it. Its narrative and comedy leaves a lot to be desired. Frankly, they don’t really add up to much. But it manages to get under your skin, pondering over the possibility of being weighed down by the unbridled power one gender asserts over the other. The director wants you to question everything that you accept as normal, or that women are made to accept as the same. There are certain vicarious pleasures to be had in witnessing an erstwhile Don Juan running across the city wearing hot pants inscribed with the word Hot on the behind. And while the film can get quite tiresome after a point, it lingers in memory owing to its audacious central conceit and the effect it has on the Damiens of the world. Oh, and that in the end, only love can save us from the enormous absurdity of it all.
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