Flawed, modern day fairytale The Fairy (La fée, 2011) is the third film from comic-collaborators Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy. Dom works in a small hotel just outside of Le Havre. One night a barefoot, luggage-less woman named Fiona walks in claiming to be a fairy and offers Dom three wishes. After asking for two (he is unable to decide on the third) they are mysteriously granted and Fiona disappears. Love-struck with Fiona the now forlorn, Dom goes in search of his fairy princess only to discover her in a mental hospital.
If whimsy and surreal charm appeal, then The Fairy will certainly entertain as it packs it into every scene. The film’s central drive is to make the audience happy with a simple, if unconventional love story. For the most part this is achieved through incredibly well crafted physical comedy routines and dance sequences.
Abel and Gordon’s relationship on screen is a delight to watch, in part because of their unconventional looks that gladly defy the conventions of casting found in Hollywood romances. More than this, their skill as performers will draw audiences in. The pair, along with a wonderful performance by Romy as a goggle-eyed bartender, demonstrate an exacting knowledge of their craft.
It’s in the notes of Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy combined with the choreographic skill of Pina Bausch that make for a visually captivating film. The central cast’s understanding of comic timing is a joy to watch, particularly the scene which makes glee-inducing use of Dinah Washington’s What a Difference a Day Makes. Equally enjoyable is The Fairy’s vintage quality, which relies on retro forms of special effects – invisible wires, double exposure, smoke machine – reminiscent of Georges Méliès, particularly in a hilarious underwater dance routine.
However, after the initial delight of the performances and whimsical love tale it all starts to become a little tiresome. The story is never quite captivating enough, despite drawing on a host of characters that live on the fringes of society, including a reappearing group of illegal immigrants that provide comic subplots. Essentially the only crime the directors’ can be accused of is trying too hard to make the audience happy, which seems a cruel thing to punish them for. Yet this is exactly the problem with The Fairy, after a while all that whimsy is just wearisome.