MOVIES

A Funny, Sometimes Foggy Commentary on Global Leaders

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EDITORS’ RATING : 7 / 10

Pros
  • Clever and funny depiction of G7 politicians
  • Talented ensemble cast
Cons
  • Sags in the middle with characters lost in the fog
  • Doesn’t quite know what to do with the premise

A send-up of the political elite packed with IR nerd humor in which the members of the G7 face off against a bunch of bog bodies that have been resurrected as a result of an ill-advised photo op? You could not draft a logline more tailor-made for this critic if you tried. “Rumours” is what you might call a gentle political satire, one that lightly ribs its protagonists rather than fully eviscerating them as we would see in great satire series “Veep” or “The Thick of It.” Like many high-concept satire movies, it works best in its first act when it’s still setting everything up, then it loses steam when it’s not quite sure where to go with the idea. The end result is an uneven yet still entertaining satirical romp, bolstered by engaging performances from its top-notch cast.

As is their tradition, the members of the Group of Seven or G7 (that is, the leaders of the most powerful democratic countries as decided in the late-20th century — the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, and Japan) have period summits to discuss the biggest issues of the day. In “Rumours,” they’ve gathered to write a preliminary addressing the current crisis — they leave it at that. We never really learn what the true crisis is.

Although they’re all the highest-ranking politicians of their respective countries, they’re also not without their own personal drama. U.K. Prime Minister Cardosa Dewindt (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is trying to stay professional despite her fling with the brooding Canadian Prime Minister Maxime Laplace (Roy Dupuis) at their previous summit. German Chancellor Hilda Ortmann (Cate Blanchett) has a crush of her own. American President Edison Wolcott (Charles Dance) battles against his own limitations due to his advanced age. And Italian Prime Minister Antonio Lamorte (Rolando Ravello) … well, he’s just happy to have been included.

Even the title seems to allude to their interpersonal drama, apparently named after the album “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac, which was released in a period when the entire band was cheating on one another. But the politicians’ problems go from personal to apocalyptic when the bog bodies that were recently uncovered nearby (and propped up so that the leaders could pose next to them with shovels, naturally) unexpectedly spring to life, presumably as a harbinger of doom for all involved.

The countries of Rumours

The opening 20 minutes of “Rumours” are arguably its strongest. Each of the political leaders exists as the personification of their respective country, creating plenty of opportunities for comedy that plays on national stereotypes. Antonio, for example, seems to have inherited his country’s inability to support the idea of anyone going hungry on his watch, and he routinely offers his companions slices of salami he stole from the hotel buffet in case they needed a snack later.

There are lots of these fun little moments, even if none are particularly barbed. The production is also helped by the talented ensemble cast, each of whom are fully committed to the bit. It certainly wouldn’t work as well without the stable of veterans milking every one-liner and comical gesture for all they’re worth. Cate Blanchett, like the German Chancellor Angela Merkel she’s clearly based upon, leads the cast with a quirkily authoritative panache. Roy Dupuis is at his scene-stealing best as Maxine’s romantic yearnings (of which he has several) lead him to storm away from the group every five minutes, to the exasperation of all.

Narrative flow and pacing issues

Although it rallies toward the end of the film with a few well-placed bits that inject energy into the proceedings, it’s hard to ignore how heavily “Rumours” sags in the middle. This is largely because there’s not much for the team of leaders to do besides wander aimlessly through the fog and try in vain to finish writing their preliminary status about the ambiguous impending crisis. They’re all stuck in a holding pattern, and during the point in the film when the characters should be growing into more nuanced versions of themselves, they remain frustratingly one-dimensional.

“Rumours” may not end up delivering on its extremely promising opening act, but that doesn’t mean it’s a complete waste. The characters are endearing representations of their home countries, reflecting all the values and foibles of their national stereotypes, and each of the lead actors bring life and a good sense of humor to their roles. For those who like a good zombie story, the premise of the resurrected bog bodies is a nice twist on an old classic. And “Rumours,” too, gets a second chance at life — just when you think you can well and truly consider it down for the count, it comes back and sticks the landing, leaving audiences with a much more satisfying conclusion than they had likely begun to expect.

“Rumours” premiered at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. Wide release plans have yet to be announced.

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