What would happen if you combined The Hangover (with less below-the-belt jokes and more sophisticated humor), Sex & The City, Road Trip, and then seasoned the recipe with some vodka, borsch, shashlyk, and other assorted Russian flavors? That is what the popular comedians ‘Kvartet I’ from Moscow asked themselves a while ago.
The result is Dmitri Dyachenko’s genuinely funny What Men Talk About, and its concept already sounds promising. A foursome of Muscovite males in their late thirties embarks on a road trip because they are invited to the anniversary of a beach club in the Southern Ukrainian city of Odessa. Of course, en route to the Black sea, they take a walk on the wild side in more than one way.
The film’s appeal to men should be a given. Who wouldn’t spent an hour and a half watching a bunch of guys debate sports, food, alcohol, and, of course, hot chicks? Because of its focus on – sometimes rather philosophical but always humorous – conversations, discussions, and ideas, it should also attract some women. Call it the ‘voyeur effect.’ After all, hasn’t the fair sex always dreamed of eavesdropping on their significant others?
Our four heroes in the car couldn’t be more different, on first glance. Lyosha (Leonid Barats) has a wife, two kids, and a rather curious obsession with German fascists. Sasha (Alexander Demidov), the group’s eternal bachelor, shoots documentaries and commercials. Kamil (Kamil Larin) is torn between his stern wife and lovely mistress, and Slava (Rostislav Khait) is a married debauchee par excellence.
The foursome has quite a lot in common, however. Each of them has his own reasons to escape Moscow temporarily, and what would be a better occasion than an invitation the Ukrainian Miami? Their trip consists of quirky memories, anecdotes, imaginary scenarios, fantasies, and tons of fun, all told with a touch of Russian-style observations in the vein of Seinfeld and Woody Allen.
What Men Talk About employs modern narrative strategies. It relies heavily on instant flashbacks and back-and-forth dialog known from modern sitcoms such as How I Met Your Mother or Cougar Town. Our four heroes take turns in telling their clever stories, so that that the perspective is not as one-sided as the Carrie Bradshaw tales in Sex & The City. In typical Russian fashion, the four also throw in some jokes about their own culture for good measure.
Our heroes pay homage to Andy Warhol to the tune of the famous Soviet 1950s epic And Quiet Flows The Don or quip about the differences between the Russian and Ukrainian tongues. Some of these references are likely to be lost in translation, but the majority of the conversation should be universal enough to work for international audiences. The film certainly deserves a lot of them. In short, it’s one of the best Russian comedies in recent years.