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  Shiny Shrimps, The In The Swim
Year: 2019
Director: Maxime Govare, Cédric Le Gallo
Stars: Nicolas Gob, Alban Lenoir, Michaël Abiteboul, David Baïot, Romain Lancry, Roland Menou, Geoffrey Couët, Romain Brau, Félix Martinez, Maïa Quesemand, Pierre Samuel, Camille-Thomas Colombier, Jean-Louis Barcelona, Yvon Back, Anaïs Gilbert
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Matthias Le Goff (Nicolas Gob) was a French swimming champion once, but that was a while ago, and as he is getting into his thirties he is not finding it any easier to beat the younger competitors, though he determined to try. However, he throws a spanner in the works of his own prospects by flinging a homophobic remark at a television reporter who was just getting too impertinent in his line of questioning, and as this was on live broadcast Matthias has now been publicly shamed. According to the swimming authority, there's only one way to make amends and get back on the national team: coach The Shiny Shrimps, the world's worst gay water polo team, to success...

There really is a French water polo team who inspired this comedy, Les crevettes pailletées as they were known in their native land, and they featured among their number one Cédric Le Gallo, a gay sportsman who growing up had been dismayed at the lack of representation of his gender, or of any non-straight gender, really, in the sporting arenas of the world. No footballers could afford to admit to being gay, for instance, and he was painfully aware there were no role models for himself or those like him when he was growing up. The Shiny Shrimps was a riposte to that situation, an openly gay team which welcomed homosexuals of all types, including transgender, to compete with them.

Now, the plot as it plays out in the film is rather different from real life, as Le Gallo's teammates were by no means the worst in the world, but there had to be a certain artistic license in play to conjure up a comedy. Another reason for this premise was that he was also aware when he was younger the gay-specific audience mostly were offered serious dramas about people dying of AIDS or having to turn to prostitution, which he felt gave a wrong impression of his experiences to the impressionable, gay and straight. So while there was one character here secretly battling cancer, for the most part the emphasis was on the laughs and a positive portrayal to build on overall.

The result? A huge hit in France, and a cult hit elsewhere as audiences responded to the goodnatured sauciness, and while it was not about to push back any boundaries with angry rhetoric, that was not what Le Gallo and his co-director and writer Maxime Govare were not trying to do. This was intended to draw in both the target audience of non-straights with a cheering depiction of the camaraderie amongst the rainbow of experience the sportspeople enjoyed and help the hetero viewer to clear up any misconceptions and win any sceptics over with sheer warmheartedness. While there were remained those who complained the project leaned too heavily on stereotypes and fostered an unrealistic depiction of the gay community, for the most part the film's fans told them not to be such stick-in-the-muds.

Certainly the object was to make the viewer laugh, it was a comedy after all, and the humour may have been broad, what mattered was whether it was funny or not, and if you could imagine it was more hilarious if you spoke French, there were plenty of well-earned chuckles for the non-French thanks to the film finding a wavelength that was inclusive without selling out. Don't worry about the homophobic insult part of the plot, because the movie didn't, more or less dropping it after five minutes to concentrate on getting the Shrimps to the Gay Games, an Olympics for, well, gay sports competitors as both a safe place for them to prove themselves and a clear sign that what might be termed the sporting mainstream would do well to be comfortable with its participants' sexuality, whatever it was. The question of whether trans women are suitable for female contests was glossed over, but the Shrimps did feature a recently transitioned member (Romain Brau) who was not a problem. Yes, the team grumbled and fell out, but they supported each other when push came to shove. Music by Thomas Couzinier and Frédéric Kooshmanian.

[Peccadillo Pictures' DVD has featurettes, a trailer and a singalong with the Shrimps' version of Sabrina's Boys for you.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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