He may be still relatively unknown to American audiences, but Francois Ozon is one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, always delivering something worth talking about even if not all of his films come together. If you consider yourself an aficionado of French film in any way and have yet to see Under the Sand, 8 Women, or Swimming Pool, get thee to a Netlfix queue as quickly as possible and catch up on this intriguing writer/director. Sadly, Ozon’s work has suffered a bit in recent years as the costume drama Angel didn’t quite work and now we have the limited release of the better-but-still-flawed Ricky, a film that opens in Chicago on May 21, 2010 and may open at an art house near you before it shuffles off to DVD. Or perhaps that should say “flies” for Ricky is a film about a title character with the ability to soar into the air. Just because he doesn’t have the ability to speak, use a toilet, or walk doesn’t stop him.
One has to assume that the inspiration for Ricky probably came from the oft-used phrase to describe children as “little angels.” The gorgeous Alexandra Lamy stars as Katie, a single mother with a glum existence as a French factory worker. She has a precocious 7-year-old daughter named Lisa (Melusine Mayance), but a relatively dour existence until she meets a charismatic man named Paco (Sergi Lopez). The two fall in love, move in together, and it’s not long before Katie is pregnant again. What starts as a blue collar drama about two average people turning into a family switches gears with the birth of Ricky, a beautiful baby boy. Katie and Paco take turns watching the child and mama is horrified one day to come home and find giant red marks on Ricky’s back. She assumes the worst about Paco and kicks him out of the house. A few days later, the red marks tear open and Ricky sprouts something that look like chicken wings. It’s not long before the wings have grown and developed feathers. Before you know it, Ricky is ending up on top of the armoire and getting loose at the grocery store. Apparently, angelic babies aren’t that much of a story in France given the “hey, that’s neat” response of most people as opposed to the international superstar the kid would become in the real world.
But Ozon clearly isn’t interested in “Ricky the YouTube superstar angel baby.” So, what is he trying to say with Ricky? There’s a definite thematic streak about the fact that sometimes the fantastic can be found in the mundane – that angels could appear in the lives of blue-collar workers, but what’s the dark turn of the story mean? Be careful what you wish for? The final act has a somber tone that I’m still trying to decipher months after first seeing the film and I’m not only uncertain what Ozon is trying to say but if he really even knows. It feels unfocused as Ricky never quite comes together like its excellent first two acts suggest it might, as if it were a short film stretched to feature length and not fully conceived as a complete film.
The performances are uniformly spectacular, especially Lopez (Pan’s Labyrinth), and Ozon is such an interesting filmmaker that I refuse to write off Ricky entirely. It’s certainly a flawed film as it feels oddly incomplete at times but, like most of Ozon’s work, there’s too much here that works to ignore the film. The original concept alone distinguishes the piece. How many angel baby movies do you think you’ll see this year?
Rating: THREE BONES
Reviewed by Brian Tallerico (MovieRetriever.com Film Critic)
Release Date: May 21st, 2010 (in Chicago)
Starring: Alexandra Lamy, Sergi Lopez, Melusine Mayance, and Arthur Peyret
Director: Francois Ozon
Writers: Francois Ozon and Emmanuele Bernheim