Poison Friends revives a rare pleasure of moviegoing: articulacy. Ten years ago Phillip Lopate diagnosed a “Dumbing Down of American Movies,” and the disproportionate praise given to reactionary “realism” in recent indies suggests that, as expectations shrivel, things have gotten stupider across the board. But Poison Friends, written by frequent Arnaud Desplechin scenarists Emmanuel Bordieu and Marcia Romano, defies the tendency, investing the same raucous humanity into the world of ideas that marked the academic milieu of Desplechin’s My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument.
From a packed University lecture hall on the first day of class, three students are winnowed out; two are newcomers, Eloi (Malik Zidi), son of a successful authoress, and slight, wincing Alexandre (Alexandre Steiger); they arrive late, disrupt the professor, can’t find a seat. The last, Andre (Thibault Vincon), is already in his element; he has an established rapport with the teacher, and is relaxed before his peers when speaking forbiddingly on the function of the critic, quoting the Viennese writer Karl Kraus: “Why do some people write? Because they are too weak not to.” Eloi and Alexandre are immediately smitten in that certain homosocial academic manner, starting on their way to becoming acolytes in Andre’s cult of personality (the movie is dead-on whenever dealing with the insecurities of young people fumbling at creation for the first time, and their hunger for approbation).
Click here to read the rest of Nick Pinkerton’s review of Poison Friends.