Movie Review by Lisa Henshall
Starring: Jamel Debbouze, Julien Courbey, Lorant Deutsh, Stephane Soo Mongo
Director: Djamel Bensalah
This is the feature debut from 21 year old French writer/director Djamel Bensalah. It should be pointed out immediately that the original cinema title HOMEBOYS AT THE BEACH was far more suitable, and gave it the much-needed edge that it so obviously aspires to. By changing the title on the video release to BOYS ON THE BEACH, thereby giving it a softer, more generalised tone, the film loses the one element that set it apart from others of its kind.
The story centres around 4 teenage friends who win a ‘young film-makers’ competition for their documentary film report on life in the tough Parisian suburb of St Denis, where they all live – their prize being a 3 week holiday in Biarritz. The boys run out of money a few days into the holiday and then spend most of their time watching TV in the apartment, bickering, sitting on the beach, and trying to chat up girls. The story is not important because nothing really significant occurs during the film, the excellent hip-hop soundtrack and crackling dialogue on the other hand, is. It was certainly the critical factor in its success on release in French cinemas, a sort of AMERICAN PIE for French youth. The dialogue is crucial in engaging the audience and making them think as well as laugh, as with directors like Kevin Smith – whose films are also dialogue-driven movies which rely heavily on the audience following the fast pace of all the jokes.
However, this is where the film falls down, as the presumably sharp and witty dialogue in French does not translate into English at all. The film, when subtitled in English, becomes an occasionally humorous, occasionally dramatic story of 4 teenagers on holiday – with a couple of references (which feel deliberate and thrown in for effect) to racism and prejudice experienced by the boys in their luxurious surroundings. This same problem of non-translation must be experienced on a regular basis by film-makers releasing their films internationally. Although it seems sad to say it, in this case, maybe the production company shouldn’t have bothered.