Imagine, instead of what James Brown sings about in “This is a Man’s World”, we lived in a world where women have been seen as the stronger sex and in charge of everything, for thousands of years. It’s true that women, in large part, raise the children, do the lion’s share of domestic chores, all while still working outside the home for less, often in lower positions, and therefore arguably keep the world from devolving into complete chaos, but it’s still hard to do, isn’t it? Yet that is the fertile environment in which screenwriter Ariane Fert and co-writer/director Eleonore Pourriat place I Am Not An Easy Man, or as it’s called in the original French, Je Ne Suis Pas un Homme Facile.
The film, released in 2018 in France and is now available on Netflix. Nothing short of completely delightful and entertaining from start to finish, it offers fantasy fulfillment to any women frustrated with their job, expectations around their visual presentation, their quest for equality in general, and, hell, even their walks around the block. Dudes who have to shame their male friends into being less “bro”, and many of us know those guys, will likely appreciate the film just as much as female viewers.
Parisian advertising executive Damien (Vincent Elbaz) is a shameless womanizer, filling his days by joking about women with his nearly exclusively male colleagues, flirting with women mostly half his age, and objectifying them to their faces and other chauvinistic exercises. When he goes for a walk with his longtime friend Christophe (Pierre Benezit) and hits his head on a street sign, he wakes up in a completely different reality.
Alexandra (Marie-Sophie Ferdane), the waitress he teased at Christophe’s book release, is now a rich power player who chooses who she sleeps with. She is keeping large glass jars full of marbles to represent all her year-to-year conquests. Damien is fired for speaking back to his boss, a woman who was ignored at business meetings in his other reality. Walking through the streets means seeing adverts with young, scantily-clad men with cherries in their mouths, or bent over in suggestive poses. He is expected to shave nearly all his body hair or be seen as repulsive by women. In this new experience, they barely listen to his ideas. They are too busy plying him with alcohol to get him to go home with them. How Damien navigates this new topsy-turvy territory, and all the many ways Pourriat and Fert show the world with the power-shoes on the other feet, is what makes the film both a lot of fun and surprisingly poignant.
There are so many moments, so much surrounding the story in the background, that feed into this alternate reality, viewers could watch the film multiple times in order to catch them all. One that you might miss, but expresses just how thoughtful these female filmmakers are in world-building, is the scene where Damien watches a green-clad man in his dining room across the street, from his own apartment window. He is sitting down to a pretend date, toasting and chatting with his invisible lady-caller, only to burst into tears. It’s a moment-by-moment homage to Miss Lonelyhearts in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, and it’s… “French chef’s kiss.”
There’s so much more where that came from. Does it hit its audience over the head a bit? Perhaps. Does a lifetime of unwanted “why don’t you smile?”s and “let me explain it to you, little lady”s suggest many of us might want to fantasize about seeing men experience all that, even just briefly? Yes. Maybe they’d understand our lives and our needs a wee bit better.
All this time in isolation can’t help but cause reflection in most of us. Our unprecedented times also call for all the comedy and wish fulfillment we can safely get our hands on. For all that, ladies and gentlemen, I give you I Am Not an Easy Man.
For COVID Comfort: 5 out of 5 stars.