DIRECTED BY: François Ozon
FEATURING: Alexandra Lamy, Mélusine Mayance, Sergi López
PLOT: A single mom factory worker gives birth to a very special baby; of course, every mother thinks her baby is miraculous, but in this case the press thinks so, too.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: A minor but sometimes effective meditation on motherhood, Ricky might not be good enough to make this exclusive list even if it were extremely bizarre. Its “what if” premise and strange, vacillating tone is just off-normal enough to place the movie within the weird genre, but it in no way pushes the boundaries of the bizarre.
COMMENTS: If you’ve read other reviews of Ricky, you might have already discovered what it is that makes this baby special; only a few critics have managed to keep the film’s turning point a secret. I don’t think it’s necessary to give away the surprise to discuss the film, but you might be able to figure it out anyway from context. It’s less important precisely what it is that makes Ricky a special baby, which is mainly a matter of concern for the special effects crew, then it is to consider the role Ricky’s “specialness” plays in the story: a metaphor for the wonder with which a mother views her own offspring. The wizardry that brings the baby to life is inconsistent—the analog elements are neat looking, if unconvincing, while the digital realizations are just unconvincing—but that’s not what most people will find unsatisfactory about the film. Ricky begins life as a dreary domestic drama, then shifts gears about halfway through and tries to be a whimsical semi-comedy before gliding into a mystical, suspiciously happy ending. As the movie gets weirder the tone gets lighter, but the hard realities of the earlier drama still weigh it down. The two hemispheres of the movie work against each other; the part of the movie that’s well done is kind of boring, while the more intriguing portion often seems thrown together on the fly.
As stressed lower-middle class parents Katie and Paco, Alexandra Lamy and Sergi López are believably flawed: they bicker and accuse each other, they sometimes neglect Katie’s older child Lisa, and they can be irresponsible parents (no pediatrician for Ricky?), but in the end they fight through their own limitations to do the right thing for their offspring. Lamy sells the film’s potentially ridiculous emotional climax and makes it affecting; a poor performance would have turned it into pure camp. It’s a serious and thoughtful movie with points to praise (particularly Lamy’s performance); but, even as an experiment in deliberately inconsistent tone, it’s hard to say the film works on the whole. In the end, Ricky never really gets off the ground.
The movie begins with an out-of-sequence prologue that’s incompatible with the rest of the story. Although the scene frustrates and confuses some viewers, it’s a great tear-jerking moment for Lamy; and, more importantly, by it contrasting the grim reality of single parenthood with the fantasy that follows, it’s the key to the film’s psychology.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“The film is bewildering. I don’t know what its terms are, and it doesn’t match any of mine. I found myself regarding it more and more as an inexplicable curiosity.”–Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun Times (contemporaneous)