You have three wishes: what are they?
That’s the question pinned to Dom (Dominique Abel) – an unlucky, Gollum-looking hotel host in a French seaside city – who has the wonderful good fortune of meeting Fiona (Fiona Gordon), a self-declared fairy.
Fiona grants Dom three wishes, somewhat like a genie, and almost immediately he burns the first two. Wish No. 1 is for a scooter; wish No. 2, for a life-time supply of gas. Both are almost immediately supplied, but wish No. 3 comes harder. Dom takes his time to think it over. Fiona encourages his thoughtfulness; but the time to think is hardly found after Dom falls for his fairy – a lanky, care-free creature with a smile all gums and guffaw.
What becomes of their romance is something so surreal and silly that it delights, for quite a while, on sight gags, deadpan humor, small laughs and songs.
The film’s directors/writers – who happen to be Dom, Fiona and someone else: a Bruno Romy – set their characters on an adventure that runs throughout the seascape, pauses for numerous musical numbers, moments of pure goofiness and the occasional criminal act.
The film’s style is a mix of modern French fairy tale (think Le Havre, which came out last December and which also happens to be, geographically, the precise location in which the Fairy takes place) and something out of Looney Tunes. It plays like a dream, taking itself apart, making things like babies appear in wombs, seemingly out of nowhere; it’s absurd and more than surprisingly amusing.
In this comic trinity’s world, anything is possible. A skinny-dipping session in the English Channel becomes an underwater dance number where Dom and Fiona, dressed in seaweed swimsuits, groove — water physics absolutely suspended — amid schools of toy fish and a giant people-eating clam – in which the couple consummates their love.
But after sex under the sea, Dom also finds himself from time to time in a more familiar cinema, where the early morning landscapes have a turquoise-stung sky I recall from some Wong Kar Wai/Christopher Doyle films. Despite its goofiness, the movie can be conspicuously pretty.
Eventually, the movie reveals that Fiona isn’t a fairy, but a patient at a mental institution. Nevertheless, she manages magic, delivering herself a child while on a rooftop, eluding authorities and having all kinds of fun with Dom.
But the goofiness grows stale. After an hour and a half, some of the gags, such as using a phone to whisper to someone right next to you, don’t ring, and drag and drag and drag and drag. At that point, you just want it to end on a something sweet, which the movie accomplishes to a certain degree.
Despite wearing out its style and humor, the Fairy‘s tone is just so unsettling (in a delightful way) that it can’t help but leave a good-humored impression. You recall the scene of a girl singing in a bar to her fellow female futbol athletes — all of which are blowing on her gently, so as to imitate a sea breeze — and just laugh. It’s a not a belly-laugh or a laugh tinged with cruelty, stemming from a joke at someone’s expense. It’s a laugh made of half confusion and half novelty. Like seeing a man put his ear to a cell phone with a plastic banana taped to it. Or watching babies taste lemon. Or reading, for the first time, that Salvador Dali would seduce American women, take off their clothes and place fried eggs on their shoulders before sending them out the door. It’s just strange.
While I don’t think the Fairy is a masterpiece, it does give you the excuse, when leaving the theater, to click your heels together, mid-air, above the concrete and asphalt of Lagoon Avenue. Why? Because you just saw a French movie where a man carries a woman out of a hospital on his stomach, with her hair disguised as his beard, her bottom as his belly. But perhaps such gags are lost on you.
In any case, you still can think of your three wishes. As it turns out: thinking it over can an adventure on its own.
The Fairy is playing at the Lagoon Theater.