Since Weeds premiered, many series have tried to resemble this wonderful cannabis fiction by Jenji Kohan, starring the goddess Mary-Louise Parker, but very few have succeeded, except for Broad City, also created and starring by two goddesses: Illana Glazer and Abi Jacobson: they’ve nailed it! Ok, I found Disjointed funny, but, unsurprisingly, it does not reach by far the complexity of Nancy Botwin's story since the bar has been set really high. I didn’t ask so much… well, not until the other day when I randomly clicked play and discovered Family business, a French comedy that, believe me, you should watch tonight!
I really love series that get you immersed in the story right away. Before you know it, it is already too late and you can't stop watching episode after episode, willing to get back home from work to keep going and totally empathizing with the characters… and this is exactly what happened to me with Family Business. In this absurd comedy, protagonists seem to have been taken from the Marx Brothers movie “A Night at the Opera”: same troublemakers getting tangled up in the same ridiculous situations. They capture your interest in such a clever way that you get hooked on the plot and end up caring for each of the characters.
The Hazan family
The protagonists are the Hazans, a Jewish family composed of siblings Joseph and Aure and their father Gerard, who runs a kosher butcher shop and is quite depressed and sad since his wife, the matriarch of the family, passed away. Despite the efforts of all of them, the family economy is going downhill and neither of the two children has much interest in taking the parent’s business.
Joseph tries everything to get ahead, even patenting a phone app that simulates interference when you say the word ‘tunnel’ while talking on the phone with someone you want to give the runaround. But all his business ideas fail. His sister, on the other hand, is preparing her trip to Japan to start selling, at a very good price, designer sneakers. She will be joining her girlfriend there, although nobody in her family knows she is a lesbian.
Here we have another of the many peculiarities of the Hazans, a family characterized by a long history of hiding the truth and lying to each other, a fact that always triggers these series of surreal and hilarious situations. Certainly, these exceptionally well presented and incredibly well developed plots are some of the key elements that make this French comedy a top one. On Twitter, it is already being considered as “the marijuana Breaking Bad”. While not agreeing with the label, this gives us a rough idea of the extent of its success.
A cop-out of the butcher shop
Joseph, the character played by Jonathan Cohen, tries by all possible means to get rid of his father's butcher shop when his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came across. One night, he and his best friend Olivier meet a very particular lady, Clémentine, who confesses that his father, a current minister of the French government, will legalize cannabis in the coming months. And, by the way, what a brilliant character played by actress Louise Coldefy! She’s hilarious, eccentric, peculiar, extreme...
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But anyways, getting back to the story, every character plays a different key role in the story but they all get involved in what becomes the plot’s rising action: turning the family's kosher butcher shop into a coffeeshop-style cannabis dispensary. Joseph and Olivier decide, with some reservations since they think she is crazy, to talk to Clémentine to check if her father could help them getting a license once cannabis is finally legalized in the country. She is willing to have this conversation with him, but she asks Joseph for something in return that is not money-related but will definitely get him into trouble. I don't want to reveal anything, but there were times in which I found myself exclaiming “it can't be true!” to clearly understand afterwards that, considering the plot, that was the only possible outcome.
A well-constructed series
In Family Business there are villains you only find in the cartoons and female characters with their name, surname and their own plot (so the series would ace the Bechdel test) but there’s also love, friendship and a family in crisis that is silently screaming how much they need each other. But above all, there are prejudiced views towards the cannabis plant, heavily stigmatized by all societies, which are overcome with an empowering simplicity.
There is much more that you will have to discover for yourself because this review cannot contain any spoiler. For now, I can only reveal that so far the show has received very good reviews and the outstanding cast of actors and actresses (Jonathan Cohen, Gerard Darmon, Julia Piaton and Liliane Rovere, among others) has been largely acclaimed by the audience, especially in France. Also, we cannot forget the participation and stunning performance of French singer Enrico Macias, who plays the role of himself and whose biggest fan happens to be the patriarch of the Hazans.
By now, many of you may be wondering if there will be another season. And we have good news since Netflix France has recently announced that there will be a second one released in 2020. Indeed, it cannot be otherwise because this first season, consisting of six episodes of about 30 minutes each, is a mere approach to the plot that leaves many things unresolved. Family Business is definitely one of those productions that will leave you wanting more.
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