Directed by Éléonore Pourriat; Written by Éléonore Pourriat
Come for the man-waxing, stay for the waxing philosophical.
Do you have an uncle/cousin/dad/friend who considers any social gathering a failure if they cannot take a moment to denounce those pesky feminists for making a mountain out of a molehill and bothering everyone with this patriarchy nonsense? Ever wish you could transport them into a world where they’d get to experience that nonsense for themselves? I’m Not An Easy Man is here for you.
Damien (Vincent Elbaz) is an unrepentant hound whose good looks has instilled in him a belief that every woman is only a certain number of words away from parting her legs to him, and so each of his words is laden with innuendo, suggestion, if not downright proposition. For example, he asks them to say the word “mimosa” as an icebreaker: an innocent, fun word, one might say. But for someone like Damien, the suggestive way “mimosa” forms women’s lips seems to give him an opportunity to fantasize about what else they can wrap their lips around. He’s that kind of man.
So who better to take a smack to the head, get knocked unconscious, and wake back up in a world where the tables have turned. Where butchers, bouncers and bartenders are gruff women and the men wait tables in scant clothing; where men are thought too sentimental, and hysteric when they speak out against transgression. Who better to suddenly be expected to be “game,” submissive and endure the cruel, if not gross, comments made to him by insistent women. Who better?
The premise of I’m Not An Easy Man is a compelling provocation, and much of its first half is stuffed full of laughs at Damien’s expense. It’s all in good fun, but there’s also a lot of schadenfreude to enjoy as this chauvinist gets put through it. However, there’s an implied question in that humour. Because there is comedy in conventions getting flipped. It is fun when men suddenly are expected to shave their bodies entirely (except maybe for a landing strip in the middle of their chest as an acceptable risque deviation still within the spectrum of submission) but while we laugh, Pourriat asks: why is it ridiculous to see men do all this, but not women?
Pourriat focuses mostly on how sex and relationships are filtered by these power imbalances, except for an early scene at Damien’s work, where suddenly women are “leadership material” because they’re more direct and men need to think twice about how their words and outfits are construed. It’s a shame it doesn’t get more time, because having his professional life upended is what gets to Damien the most.
On the whole, Pourriat paints with broad strokes, and while watching you can almost hear faint, nasally exclamations of “not all men!” But the point stands that all the generalizations in I’m Not An Easy Man are recognizable and norms that everyone takes for granted and accepts.
However, Pourriat also has a story to tell on top of the thought experiment, and here you’re served a rather meager dish that’s predictable and perhaps even guilty of the very thing it denounces. It means the high notes are reached early, and what’s an otherwise engaging premise stalls in third gear, unable to go beyond its initial momentum and dig deeper to find something original to say.
In the end, it does make one point, however rudimentary: women want the freedom to be whatever they want to be and do whatever they want to do without having to consider a man’s opinion or approval. Who knew? It’s an embarrassingly simple position, and it’s to the film’s detriment that it arrives early to later be glossed over by a lukewarm romantic plotline. But the fact that it needs repeating at this point in time feels like justification enough for a film like I’m Not An Easy Man to exist.