| French screen legends Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu are paired for the eighth time in director Francois Ozon’s film adaptation of a popular Parisian stage play. The title is a French word used to describe a spoiled and pampered bourgeois trophy wife.
The movie, set in 1977, opens with Suzanne Pujol (Deneuve) jogging in red warm-ups around a beautiful lake in the woods with her hair in curlers. She blows kisses to the birds and is inspired to jot down a few lines of poetry in her little pocket diary after seeing a squirrel run up a tree. Besides her poems, her carefree existence is consumed with gardening, needlepoint and her two grandsons.
Suzanne has been married for 30 years to Robert (Fabrice Luchini from “Moliere,” “Intimate Strangers” and “Paris”). They have two children. Blonde daughter Joelle (Judith Godreche) has two young boys. She is having marital difficulties because her husband travels constantly. Artistically inclined son Laurent (Jeremy Renier) is a left-wing pacifist who has been dating the baker’s daughter, a big step down in class.
Suzanne brought into the marriage as part of her dowry a factory that manufactures umbrellas. Her arrogant and philandering husband has put her up on a shelf (rather than a pedestal) like part of their residential decor. Although Robert treats her like an empty-headed doormat whose opinions don’t matter, Suzanne has made up her mind to be happy.
Robert runs the factory of 300 workers like a tyrant. His personal secretary, Nadege (Karin Viard), doubles as his mistress. When the workers go on strike and take Robert hostage, Suzanne turns to union leader and former lover Maurice Babin (Depardieu) for help. Maurice is the town mayor and a Communist party member of Parliament.
After Robert is set free, his doctor determines he is in poor health and needs to take an extended vacation. Suzanne takes over as head of the factory. She has Joelle and Laurent at her side assisting in management decisions.
Suzanne strikes up a relationship with Maurice in the guise of smoothing over labor relations with her employees. Maurice views it as a second chance at love.
When a well-rested Robert returns after three months, a power struggle ensues for control of the factory.
This charming comedy soufflé is light, fluffy and sure to please. Deneuve, 67, and Depardieu, 63, are like bread and butter fitting so naturally together on screen. It’s like watching a verbal fencing match as they thrust and parry with words.
Deneuve is a classy dame. Her hair is always perfect and her outfits are divine. It is worth the price of admission to see what outfit she wears next. She has you rooting for her character throughout the film. She makes a remarkable transformation from housewife to business executive and politician.
The supporting cast gives depth to their respective characters with a triumphant style of acting. The impeccable timing and smooth delivery adds to the overall pleasurable experience.
Director Ozon, whose previous films include “Swimming Pool,” “Under the Sand” and “8 Women” uses split screens, witty flashbacks and colorful sets to entertain and delight the viewer. This cinematic gem offers an understanding of human nature while satirizing the age-old battle of the sexes and outdated class distinctions. Another winning ingredient is the endearing musical score from composer Philippe Rombi (“Joyeux Noel”).
The movie was filmed in Brussels, Belgium. It premiered at the 2010 Venice Film Festival. It was nominated for four Cesars (the French equivalent of the Academy Awards) in the categories of Best Actress (Deneuve), Best Supporting Actress (Viard), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ozon) and Best Costume Design.
The movie is paced perfectly at 103 minutes. The extremely funny dialogue is in French with easy-to-read English subtitles. This sweet, whimsical comedy is for mature audiences with several scenes of peek-a-boo sexuality. It opens for a limited engagement at the Glenwood Arts and the Tivoli in Westport.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"