The Misfortunates (Belgium 2009, 108 min, dir: Felix Van Groeningen, cast: Kenneth Vanbaeden, Valentijn Dhaenens, Koen De Graeve, Wouter Hendrickx, Johan Heldenbergh, Bert Haelvoet, Gilda De Bal).
All Belgium is divided into two parts: both equally disgusting. Wallonia is the French speaking south and Flanders is the Dutch speaking north. Memorable moments in the south include the man made tourist hill that desecrates the battlefield of Waterloo. The north features stinky rail stations, diesel fumes, and one excellent national dish: French fries.
It is no wonder Belgium filmmakers produce mainly comedies. The whole country is a bad joke. In Paris they don’t tell Polish jokes, they tell Belgium jokes.
In this maze of train tracks, unpronounceable town names, and badly poured concrete; director Felix Van Groeningen introduces us to the Strobbes. Four grown brothers, their mother, and a thirteen-year-old son of one of the brothers make up this household.
Activates include beer drinking, swearing, dressing up as women, drinking, naked bike races, drinking, and trying to get that final gulp before the shakes hit you so bad you can’t hold your glass. Finding humor in all this is Van Groeningen’s art and he does it very well. At first you want young Gunther (Kenneth Vanbaeden) to escape. Later you think, escape to what? The adult version of Gunther (Valentijn Dhaenens) still lives by the railroad tracks and is poor, but now he is an author writing about this brilliant time in his life that we see in flashbacks.
How can you hate guys who make fun of the prim social worker sent to check on young Gunther when her name is Miss Fockaday? The film is like a Sunday afternoon in a roadhouse bar where you might as well join the party because they’re having such a good time.