Eating Raoul

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I love the way this film opens. There is a quick succession of cuts showing the harsh Los Angeles landscape with a voice over talking about the excesses of the town. It sets the tone for the rest of a film that deals with the mundane reality of sex and violence, but it also shows that the director has an acute and biting sense of humor.

Eating Raoul is about an uptight couple who embodies their last name thoroughly, the Blands. Mr. Bland just got fired from his liquor store job because he was ordering too good of wine for the clientele. Mrs. Bland works as a nurse and is constantly harassed by the male patients. With the loss of Mr. Bland’s job, Mrs. Bland wouldn’t be able to support them, let alone save up enough money to open up their dream restaurant. They live in an apartment complex that also houses a couple of depraved swingers. One of the swingers breaks into their apartment and attacks Mrs. Bland. Mr. Bland hits him over the head with a cast iron skillet. Their reaction to this violent scene is not reversion but more delight at finding several hundred dollars in the man’s wallet. They come up with a scheme. They will place an ad in a skin magazine advertising them as dominatrix and lure these gross men to their apartment. While they are in the middle of indulging their depraved fantasies with Mrs. Bland, Mr. Bland will hit them over the head with a cast iron skillet and rob them of their money. They seem to be naturals and take to the scheme quite easily. However they are quickly finding out that it is hard to dispose of the bodies. This is where Raoul comes in. He is a con man and a thief, originally hired to change their locks. He enters into a deal with them where he sells the bodies to a dog food company and they get a certain cut. But Raoul becomes smitten with the leggy Mrs. Bland while also scamming them out of the money he earns from selling the cars he takes from the dead men. The situation comes to head (literally) and Mr. Bland takes him out the only way he knows how. I leave you to guess what happens to his body.

This film is a razor-sharp farce. The Blands take to this scheme like it would be any other job. One night after Mrs. Bland is entertaining a man who wants her to dress up as Minnie Mouse and Mr. Bland takes him out, she lights a cigarette and asks what is for dinner like she would after a stressful day at the hospital. The people who play the Blands compliment each other magnificently. They are able to match each other’s ennui like they were a real life couple that has been together for quite sometime.

But the shift of Raoul entering the picture does not help the picture. It is easy to see that the actor who was playing Raoul does not have a lot of experience acting. His character should be over the top, but he plays it like he a piece of cardboard. For lack of a better word, he was just bland.

Beyond the actors’ performance, I think this film really is able to twist the knife into the sexual society that they were living in at the time. Nothing was taboo anymore, nothing was sacred. Every fantasy and domination is legitimized and indulged in. In fact most people were probably doing it in order to be hip. The Blands acceptance of the culture as a given and their entrance into it plays into its shallowness. This film is interesting because it is able to bring something to the conversation of sexual depravity without giving the commentary a religious or moral bent. The director was able to take amorality of Ernst Lubitsch comedies and update them to the modern era. For that I commend him.

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