Director: François Ozon
Screenplay: François Ozon
Cast: Evelyne Dandry, François Marthouret, Marina de Van
NY Distribution Status: opens 18 June 1999 (Leisure Time)

Grade: C-

Somewhere in the world, I suppose, there may still be people who envision the bourgeois family as an emblem of social harmony and moral stability, and perhaps these folks -- assuming that they someday grow weary of making shadow puppets on the walls of their caves and emerge blinking into the harsh sunlight -- are still capable of being shocked out of their complacency by movies that DARE! to expose the seething hotbed of lust and envy and resentment that malevolently bubbles beneath the apparently "normal" veneer of the average family. For the rest of us, however, movies like Sitcom can safely be filed in the folder marked "Duh," right alongside creaky liberal pap like Ghosts of Mississippi ("racism = bad") and Philadelphia ("homophobia = bad"); while the agendas may differ (one kind of film aims to startle and discomfit, the other to soothe and reassure), the air of smug self-congratulation remains an irritating constant. On the evidence of this film and his evocative but strangely pointless featurette See the Sea, Ozon clearly gets a kick out of monkeying with genre conventions; trouble is, there's no method to his madness -- it's just provocation for provocation's sake, lacking even the sense of gleeful, anarchic naughtiness that informs, say, the early John Waters flicks. (The climax is straight out of Multiple Maniacs, only far more timid and -- yawn -- freighted with psuedo-Oedipal Significance.) With no proper story to tell or novel idea to explore or three-dimensional characters to develop, Ozon struggles mightily to disguise his film's essential emptiness via one "outrageous" set piece after another, dutifully ticking off every item on the Transgression checklist: incest, homosexuality, bisexuality, sadomasochism, orgies, repressed murderous fantasies, patriarchs who thoughtfully consume dead rodents, etc. I found it all rather wearisome; fans of Todd Solondz, however, may well disagree.