“Microbe and Gasoline” (2016)
Daniel (Ange Dargent) is sometimes called Microbe by teasing classmates because he is small, though he is quick to say that he isn’t the smallest in his class. He is a shy kid, especially around girls and not particularly popular. Daniel has a talent for drawing, which he is constantly doing. He has been brought up by his mother to question authority and to get in touch with his emotions. Bullied at school and mistaken for a girl (even his own teacher thinks he is a girl because of his long hair and meek demeanor. Life at home isn’t much better. He is blamed for everything that goes wrong, even if it is evident that his brother did it. His mother (Audrey Tautou) is always making him talk about his feelings and worse yet, feeds his meatless meals. His older brother is a punk rocker, who between his horrible band and his thuggish ways, constantly torments Daniel. Daniel biggest worry is about sex as he thinks he may never have a relationship with a girl, much less have sex.
His world changes when Theo (Theophile Baquest) stars attending Daniel’s school. The exact opposite of Daniel, Theo is outgoing, quick to give his opinion on everything and loves engaging in conversations. The two boys form a bond almost immediately, realizing they are two odd ducks in a big pond. Theo is given the nickname of Gasoline because in his spare time, he works on small engines. Theo’s home life is even worse than Daniel’s. His father thinks he is useless, and his mother thinks that he is on this earth to serve her every need. When Theo ends up being the only person to visit Daniel’s one-man art show, he cheers him up by acting as if the gallery is packed with people.
Sent on an errand to take scrap metal for sale, the boys find a small motorcycle engine and use the scrap metal proceeds to buy it. The boys decide that they will design and build a car so that Theo can visit his old summer camp. They create their car in the shape of a small house, with even a flower box and a way, when parked, to hide the fact that it’s a car. The boys are ready for their adventure and what an adventure it will be.
I enjoyed this coming of age adventure which explores to boys trying to figure out their place in the world. Microbe comes off as the much more serious of the two, with his several perceived problems always weighing him down. Theo is more of a fun-loving kid with a devil-may-care attitude. What I liked about this film are the conversations that the two boys have as they are on their adventure. The film tackles some interesting topics, including sexuality and the talks between the two characters seem real and refreshingly honest. Writer/director Michel Gondry keeps the film restrained and subtle, never going for a big laugh but instead has a much lighter touch as we enjoy our travels with the guys.
The chemistry between Theophile Baquest playing Theo and Ange Dargent playing Daniel is marvelous. The two share a bond on the screen that makes this film enjoyable and work so well. Baquest has a commanding presence on the screen that draws your eye to him in every scene that he is in. His portrayal of Theo is full of confidence and quick patter. Dargent has the harder job of the two, making us like the quieter and shy character of the two but Dargent carries it off with a restrained but memorable performance. Audrey Tautou isn’t given much to do in the film, other than being a disconnected mom, not displaying her usual on-screen energy.
“Microbe & Gasoline” is an enjoyable adventure with two boys on their way to manhood. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is playing exclusively in the Atlanta area at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema
For more of Mike’s reviews and interviews click here.