DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: LA FLORIDA

Wednesday 26 March 2008


La Florida (1993) dir. George Mihalka
Starring: Remy Girard, Raymond Bouchard, Pauline Lapointe, Marie-Josee Croze


French-Canadian cinema has a long history of funny (and successful) comedies. Unfortunately because of many factors internal to Canada (mainly language and cultural barriers) these fine films rarely get seen outside of Quebec, and almost never outside of the country. "La Florida" was Canada's top-grossing film in 1993. It only now gets a DVD release in English Canada. The film certainly looks 15 years old, but beneath the dated costumes, music and decor is a genuinely entertaining film about a family of snowbirds who moved to Florida to run their own tourist motel for fellow Quebecers.

Remy Girard (“The Barbarian Invasions”) plays Leo Lesperance, a retired bus driver who moves his family from snowy Montreal to Fort Lauderdale Florida. Leo buys up a decrepit old motel and fixes it up to cater to the large number of French Canadian ‘snowbirds’ who vacation there during the winter. Leo’s quick success angers the rival Quebecois Motel owner “Big Daddy” (Raymond Bouchard) who makes it his mission to drive Leo out of the market. At the same time a local, Jay Lamori, earnestly ingratiates himself with Leo and his family, but his conniving head games mask an ulterior motive. Leo’s perseverance continually puts him ahead of his rivals, but at the cost of alienating himself from his beloved wife Ginette (Pauline Lapointe) who no longer receives the attention she needs.

“La Florida” plays off some familiar comic territory, it has a tone of the organized chaos of “A Fish Called Wanda”, some slapstick by way of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and the classic fish out of water scenario. Writers Suzette Couture and Pierre Sarazin hammer out a tight template script that dots the I’s and crosses the T’s. That’s no insult to the material. Comedy scripts need to be functional, and a place to jump off point from for the actors.

Mihalka casts some of the best Quebec actors, who can indeed take it to another level. You will recognize Remy Girard who’s best known internationally from Denis Arcand’s “The Barbarian Invasions”. He can deliver the necessary lovability/affability and physicality needed for the role (imagine a French-Canadian Chevy Chase). You also may remember Raymond Bouchard from “Seducing Doctor Lewis” – another fine underrated Quebec classic and watch out for Marie-Josee Croze’s performance as Leo’s bikini-clad daughter Carmen – 10 years before Barbarian Invasions.

“La Florida” was made in 1993, and so beware of some nasty dated production value. At times the film feels like a “Weekend at Bernie’s”. Certainly Jason Blicker’s performance as the slick Italian-American is atrociously clichéd, and are the two Wayne’s World rockers who pine after Carmen.

There's a wealth of funny culture-bending comedies in la Belle Province that are good enough to beat most Hollywood blockbusters in local cinemas. "La Florida" is a good start for Canadians or Americans. Don't forget to check out "Seducing Doctor Lewis" which is even better. Enjoy.

"La Florida" is available on DVD this week from Alliance Films.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

It is a very good article.I came to knoe that the French-Canadian cinema has a long history of funny and successful comedies.It is really great to hear that "La Florida" is getting a DVD release in English Canada.I wish to watch it.

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