The Closet (French)

“The Closet” is a silly French farce about a low-level condom-factory accountant named Pignon (Daniel Auteuil) who, in order to avoid being fired, spreads the rumor that he’s gay. The company won’t fire him now, because it will look like his sexual orientation was the cause of it.

There are more complications than that, of course. A particularly gay-unfriendly co-worker (Gerard Depardieu) takes extreme measures not to appear insensitive. Pignon becomes the object of affection by a female co-worker (Michele Laroque). His ex-wife (Alexandra Vandernoot) and teen-age son (Stanislas Crevillen) start returning his phone calls, now that he’s interesting.

And that is the point. This guy was an absolute nobody before he let the rumor go that he was gay. Now he has an actual identity, even if it is a false one.

He is assisted in all this by his elderly neighbor (Michel Aumont), who has personal reasons for wanting to perpetrate such a fraud. It is he who points out one of the film’s most trenchant observations: Pignon doesn’t have to change the way he behaves and “act” gay. Once everyone believes he is, they will merely change their perceptions of his existing behavior. As far as his co-workers are concerned, everything he used to do “just because,” he now does because he’s a homosexual.

It is a friendly, modern comedy, without any particular agenda beyond the obvious one of tolerance, which is presented in a very light-handed manner. It is not often laugh-out-loud funny, but it is consistently amusing. In that sense, it may be disappointing. A subject this rich perhaps ought to result in more belly laughs. But I’ll take a comedy that entertains throughout over one that is dull but with bright spots any day.

B (1 hr., 24 min.; French with subtitles; R, some very mild profanity, a scene of sexuality with some nudity.)