THE SUBSTITUTE: incident report

With this TV movie narrating the misadventures of a temporary French teacher, TF1 no longer even tries to avoid the pitfalls. Worse, fiction now seems to become a pretext to flatter clichés and reassure the audience.

Months that the trailers are running around the clock: Joey starr will be the replacement, a professor of letters confronted with a class of difficult high school students, in the Parisian suburbs. The postulate thus established arouses curiosity and we are tempted to believe that the actor will breathe new life into a playful and committed fiction. Above all, the actor has shown himself to be relevant in his career choices, especially when it comes to putting himself at the service of stories that are vectors of societal obsessions (Polish, Simply black). It will not be so here.

By refusing all credibility under cover of a fable, REPLACING accumulates, at best, clichés, at worst tilts into the grotesque. We learn that high school students today, in a high school yet upscale, insult teachers. The latter apparently have only two possibilities: renunciation, proclaimed by a Stephane Guillon very comfortable in the shoes of the disappointed teacher, or the violence, that shown by Mr. Valere, newly affected, towards a student such as we see more. A sad initial observation which, unfortunately, worsens throughout these two hours, where we attend, incredulous, classes where students shout through the school, throw basketballs screaming, or exchange with a teacher who suddenly became their best friend.

© Philippe Warrin / Exilene Films / TF1

We would like that Joey starr becomes the trainer of future teachers: in two sessions, he manages, without forcing his talent and without preparing any course, to establish his authority. The fictional subterfuge seems to grant him all the rights. Thus, the neo-teacher succeeds without any training in transfiguring his pupils, who, suddenly, pass from insults uttered towards the teacher to an eloquence contest. Above all, the surprise is in order when we see the methods claimed by the one who is presented as a model of virtue for his students, a tormented father. In the age of harassment, Joey starr spies on his students on Instagram, has fun insulting them, joins them at a party, yells when he has passed a class, and finds after four days that he would need to be on time off without ever having tackled a single text with his class (!).

Clichés are an integral part of fictions rooted in the field of education: from Student services office at Rebellious spirits or The day of the skirt, they translate by instant a certain form of reality, in which it is possible to recognize oneself. What worries here is the total detachment with any form of logic in order to bathe the viewer in the comforting codes of the success story. Nothing justifies the success of these students, much less that of the teacher. The students are devoid of any humanity, spending their time insulting each other or filming themselves, with the only recourse in the face of everyday problems a physical violence that surprises. Nothing surprising, however: the innuendo tinged with machismo alleged by Joey starr to seduce the principal end up conquering her and his miracle courses emptied of any form of pedagogy lead the rectorate to replace him on his post. A frightening fictional reality, which leaves speechless and leads to reflection. We hope that Josephine Guardian Angel will recover the prime time of Monday evening and that the 7 million televiewers will not convince the producers to launch out in a sequel.


Original title :Replacing • Production : Nicolas Gacheteau • Scenario: Chloé Marçais, Joris Morio, Jean-André Yerlès • Main actors : Joey Starr, Barbara Schulz, Helena Noguerra, Stéphane Guillon • Release date : April 12, 2021 • Duration: 2x52min

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