The Shiny Shrimps (Les Crevettes Pailletées) – Film Review
Unusually, I am going to start this review by revealing the film’s ending credits as they inform us that The Shiny Shrimps is inspired by the tale of a real-life water polo team, of the same name, that prided itself on being completely inclusive to homosexuals but also to heterosexuals and others. This premise may give the impression that The Shiny Shrimps is a wholly political film however this is quite the contrary as the film is a feel-good comedy and overall it unveils an amusing, fictionalised, outlook of the team’s exploits in their quest to qualify for the Gay Games in Croatia, which is the biggest event on the LGBTQ+ sports calendar. Co-director Cédric Le Gallo was a member of the actual water polo team and therefore provides insightful direction during the competitive water polo matches.
The Shiny Shrimps team are not entirely left to their own devices as, quite frankly, they do not play water polo well and so this provides the opportunity for a professional coach, Matthias Le Goff played by Nicholas Gob, to be enlisted to show them discipline and the error of their ways. So far, so familiar as this is an arc present in a number of character development sports based films. Plus, there are also elements of Cool Runnings in effect combined with hilariously choreographed dance routines to Bonnie Tyler’s song, Holding Out for a Hero. As such, The Shiny Shrimps subscribes to the stereotypes of having flamboyant characters within a homosexual team. However, this is tempered by their coach, an acclaimed professional swimmer, who is experiencing his own redemptive arc after being obligated to coach the team following his off-the-cuff homophobic remark on tv.
The mismatched desires between the coach and the team are an easy way to score quick laughs and so there is the perception that The Shiny Shrimps does not have any substance. Yes, there is the fractured relationship between Matthias and his daughter, which is insufficiently developed, but the rest of the film falls into the Camping style humour bracket. It is loud, brash and in your face, but The Shiny Shrimps does not ultimately reveal anything new as it veers towards predictability.
The Shiny Shrimps does change tack slightly as more character depth is added as we are privy to insights into various personal persecutions the team members may have endured as a result of their status. Perhaps this theme could have been developed further to provide more empathy with the characters themselves, who are portrayed as caricatures, but it assists to evoke that recognition of the adversity encountered by many due to a different sexual orientation. The film’s message surrounding diversity is not subtle, but these revelations add a degree of poignancy to an otherwise superficial film.
Furthermore, in a moment of foreshadowing, we are aware of bittersweet elements to the team’s journey and success in the water polo league. For some of the team members there is a degree of inertia towards achieving a modicum of success whilst for others being part of the team offers that respite from day to day life.
This is not to say that The Shiny Shrimps is not an enjoyable watch, with its over the top flourishes, as the filming style changes. There are some scenes edited in the style of a music video with songs sung by the characters in karaoke style, which sometimes reminded me of the campness of the Mama Mia film, with that pool scene, but The Shiny Shrimps is also coupled with extremely puerile humour. You too, may find yourself involuntarily humming along to those 80s power ballads and iconic anthems featuring as the film’s soundtrack. However, at those moments, it felt as though I was watching a different film, given The Shiny Shrimp’s sudden resemblance to a road trip film rather than a sports based film. Unfortunately, the result of this bloatedness is that there are superfluous scenes of the team’s nocturnal exploits without the coach, which are amusing, but without any real connection to the film’s water polo theme.
The sport of water polo is not often a feature of many films and the scenes in the water are enthralling to watch particularly as the team develops from being a flop to a top team. The cinematography assists to create that immersion with its underwater scenes as well as including tense scenes at surface level as the water polo matches ensue. It is whilst at water that the adversities and personal tribulations for the team members fade but there are still the occasional unexpected slurs within the LGBTQ community as the coach for the lesbian team utters homophobic remarks and there are prejudices on display from The Shiny Shrimps team members towards a transgender individual.
The Shiny Shrimps, despite its comedic outlook, serves to highlight that such prejudicial perspectives also exist within a community designed to be inclusive. It is a blunt message delivered by the film but an important one to consider in the diversity conversations.
Why is the team called ‘The Shiny Shrimps’, you might ask; it appears that they refer to themselves as ‘shrimps’ due to being water based and ‘shiny’ because they are fabulous. Indeed, the performances of the team shine on the screen making The Shiny Shrimps worthwhile viewing.
The Shiny Shrimps will be released on DVD, Blu-Ray and on demand in the UK on 13 January 2020