The legalization of cannabis in Western countries may well have inspired the creation of the six-part French-language comedy series, Family Business, which is now available on the Netflix streaming network.
The plot is very current. The Hazans operate a modest kosher butcher shop in the Marais, a once heavily Jewish-populated neighborhood in Paris. It’s a family affair. Gerard (Gerard Darmon), a widower, runs the place along with his adult children, Joseph (Jonathan Cohen) and Aure (Julia Piaton). The Hazans have plied their trade for many years, but their store has fallen on hard times, and Joseph and Aure are looking at alternative ways of earning a living.
Joseph, a bachelor who’s dating an Arab woman, is trying to sell a telephone app. Aure, a lesbian, is planning to join her Japanese lover in Tokyo to pursue a commercial venture.
Feeling like a loser after his app goes belly up, Joseph is elated to learn that the French government intends to legalize the production and consumption of cannabis. He envisages closing down his father’s butcher store and converting it into a hip hash shop in the heart of Paris. Joseph enlists the help of legendary crooner Enrico Macias, who plays himself, to convince Gerard, a stubborn fellow, to buy into his scheme.
Created and directed by Igor Gotesman, Family Business is mildly funny but at times quite crude. The jokes tend to be on the wry side, and the language is often coarse.
Thinking that marijuana may be more lucrative than meat, Gerard, accompanied by Joseph, embarks on a research trip to Amsterdam, the world’s cannabis capital. Much to their embarrassment, they find themselves embroiled in a heated dispute with a pimp and a prostitute in Amsterdam’s red light district, resulting in fisticuffs and the theft of their cell phones.
Informed that Joseph has been laid low by a punch, Aure abruptly cancels her trip to Japan and flies to Amsterdam with her grandmother, Ludmila (Liliane Rovere). Convinced there is a fortune to be made in the cannabis trade, the astute Ludmila buys marijuana cuttings from an old friend in Amsterdam’s flower market.
Back in Paris, Joseph and his old friend, Olivier (Olivier Rosemberg), borrow a large sum of money from Youssef (Oussama Kheddam), a bearded gangster whose sister, Aida (Lina Al Arabi), Joseph is dating. Youssef, a loan shark, charges them a hefty 30 percent interest rate. They will use the loan to set up a grow house. Ali (Ali Mahryar), Joseph’s Muslim friend, joins the Jewish-Arab enterprise.
Their ambitious plans are sidelined when the French government, in a volte-face, decides not to legalize cannabis. But a new and potentially profitable opportunity emerges when the leader of a gang expresses admiration for the quality of the Hazan’s cannabis and offers to buy it at a premium price.
Family Business, buttressed by a largely Arab-Jewish cast, is not as hilarious as it might have been. But it was sufficiently entertaining to entice me to watch all six episodes. Which, I suppose, is good enough.