Reinventing Marvin

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday October 23, 2018

'Reinventing Marvin'
'Reinventing Marvin'  

Anne Fontaine's ambitious and refreshingly non-linear tale of a young man's coming of age (and coming out), "Reinventing Marvin," culminates in a creative purging via the transformation of life into art.

Adolescent Marvin (an amazing Jules Porier) lives in a small town in France (much like our Deep South/Midwest). He is harshly bullied at school and has derogatory terms spewed at him from older students - slurs he does not even fully understand. But Marvin does seem to feel a strange attraction to the same morons who are attacking him regularly. In between humiliations, he finds a bit of refuge in taking part in theater at school.

At home, he's forced to listen to homophobic rants from his working class family, especially his stepbrother, who complains that his parents are raising Marvin to be a girl. His often drunk father vacillates between mistreating the boy and occasionally showing him kindness.

These scenes are inventively crosscut with a twentysomething Marvin (Finnegan Oldfield), now living in Paris, trying to find his footing personally and professionally. He's become immersed in his own autobiographical stage work and has become lovers with a sugar daddy (Charles Berling), who pays to have his teeth fixed. Marvin has obvious daddy issues and, although he fits in more in the big city, he still never seems to be comfortable anywhere, but onstage.

Later in the film, after Marvin achieves tremendous success under the stage name Martin Clement, his family laments the way they're portrayed in his work, despite its often word-for-word accuracy. People sometimes have no clue how cruel they're being to one another.

"Reinventing Marvin" doesn't always cohere the way it should. Its characters are sometimes painted with overly broad strokes. And the one-man show that is such a hit never quite feels like the transcendent theatre we are told it is. All that said, the movie is fascinating to watch, and Fontaine keenly keeps focus on Marvin and his journey.

The film was inspired by a popular French autobiography titled "The End of Eddie," written by 21-year-old Edouard Louis. The affectionate screenplay is credited to Fontaine and Pierre Trividic.

Oldfield, so good in last year's brilliant "Nocturama," is simply stunning here, hitting all the right nuanced notes of a young man who has longed for love and acceptance all his life, and finally comes into his own and is able to break free from the oppressed and ignorant world he grew up in.

Isabelle Huppert appears in a seemingly odd cameo as herself - odd, that is, until it makes perfect sense and allows Martin his moment in the light and, hopefully, his catharsis.

I appreciate the style as well as the story being told here, despite the fact that it doesn't always gel. Sometimes it feels like the script doesn't go quite far enough, skimming the surface of some daring themes but never actually delving deeper. In the end, it's Porier and Oldfield who captivate and kept me invested.

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep. Frank is a recipient of a 2019 International Writers Retreat Residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle (Assisi, Italy), a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, a 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and a 2015 NJ State Arts Council Fellowship Award. He is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW, FIG JAM, VATICAN FALLS) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.