Narco: The Secret Adventures of Gustave Klopp, a movie about a narcoleptic, isn’t as yawn-inducing as it may sound.
Gustave Klopp, played by French heartthrob Guillaume Canet, lives in a plain-as-vanilla suburban town, with his demanding wife Pam (Zabou Breitman), her rude-as-snot son Kevin (Vincent Rottiers) and his well-meaning father (Jean-Pierre Cassel). On top of his eccentric family life, Gus (as he’s known to everyone) has to constantly deal with his best friend Lenny (Benoît Poelvoorde), an over-the-hill and over-the-top karate star wannabe who idolizes Jean Claude Van-Damme.
Sounds boring? Well, here’s the catch—Gus is a narcoleptic. He falls uncontrollably asleep whenever he’s highly emotional and, because of his condition, can’t hold down a steady job, or be completely there for his family. Yet Gus does have one hope of leading a somewhat normal life—his dreams are detailed and imaginative tales which he illustrates lovingly into comic books when he wakes up. But when the people that Gus uncompromisingly trusts the most, that is Pam, Lenny and his weasely therapist Samuel Pupkin (Guillaume Gallienne) take advantage of his talents, he has the proverbial wake-up call and swiftly gains control of his life.
Narco: The Secret Adventures of Gustave Klopp is a typical French comedy—which, trust us, is a really good thing. Its characters are exaggerated, yet still very grounded and down-to-earth, despite the oddness of the story itself. And therein lies the film’s greatest strength. The evolution of the characters’ interactions is what kept us completely enthralled. Whether it was Gus’ constant struggle to please Pam, or his bonding moments with Lenny over more than a few cans of beer, the progression of each relationship seamlessly wove together as one overall great story.
The show, however, is not without its fair share of that trademark French quirkiness that we’ve come to expect and love. Directors Tristan Aurouet and Gilles Lellouche’s (whose only previous work together was the short film Pourkoi…Passkeu) askew method of demonstrating the explosively lively nature of Gus’ art is a nice touch. The inclusion of a pair of very different contract killers is a refreshingly peculiar contrast to the typically cool screen hitman archetype. Needless to say, every single member of the cast holds their own (including the side-splitting cameo by Van-Damme towards the end of the film). If we really had to pick a favorite, however, we’d go with Benoît Poelvoorde who steals the show with his painful martial arts lessons and his diatribe about the coolness of Double Impact. Yet, despite the seemingly slapstick nature of his character, Poelvoorde has no problems effortlessly portraying Lenny’s rarely seen softer side.
Narco is a lot of things—weird, downright riotous and even touching. It’s all pulled together to form one very enjoyable film and a worthy addition to contemporary mainstream French cinema that sits right next to cult classics like Amelie and Love Me If You Dare.