Potiche

7 Jun

Title: Potiche
Year: 
2011
Director: 
François Ozon
Writer: François Ozon, based on the play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy
Starring: 
Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godrèche, Jérémie Renier
MPAA Rating: 
R, some sexuality
Runtime: 
103 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 
83%

I like my films in French. I’ve been saying that for a long time, that I have a true weakness for films in that language and Potiche only reinforces that fact. This truly is a delightful film to watch, and it’s more than worth it just to watch Catherine Deneuve do her thing in it. Seriously, as fun as this film may ultimately prove to be, I suspect the only real reason for its existence was to give Ms. Deneuve a chance to show why she’s so legendary and great, she’s the one that makes this one work so damn well, going all retro in her performance to deliver the goods like it’s nobody’s business in what’s probably François Ozon’s best film since the sublime Swimming Pool back in 2003.

And I really do believe that the film is only here because this was a role Ms. Deneuve would hit out of the park, because other than that then really the plot is just way too all over the place to be much of anything, but it’s the performance given by this screen legend that makes all of that stop mattering to us, and enables us to get lost in the film and have a pretty awesome time at it. Because she really is what ties it all together, she, with the help of Gérard Depardieu and the talents of Mr. Ozon who works this one out wonderfully, having touches of screwball comedy, plain melodrama and feminist fare all in the same movie and balancing it out perfectly, just a tremendous job overall.

The title of the film comes from the slang word used by the French to refer to trophy wives. And that’s sort of what Suzanne, the character Ms. Deneuve plays, appears to be at first, a trophy wife to Robert, an irritable businessman. And she really makes Suzanne a very amusing character, one apparently unaffected or unaware of the bad ways of her husband, a man who’s abusive towards the workers of his company and who takes clients to night clubs where he’s not exactly the most loyal husband. And even though her daughter tells her she should just dump Robert, she just goes on letting things be as they are.

However, things take a turn when Robert becomes undisposed to run the company and Suzanne sees herself forced to take control of the company, a company that was her father’s to begin with, but that she gave to Robert. The thing that makes Robert undisposed is the fact that his workers became tired of his reign and went on strike, kidnapped him and then once he was released he had an argument with Gérard Dipardieu’s character, Maurice Babin, which gave him a heart attack from all the stress. Add to that the fact that Maurice is a former union leader and Suzanne’s old flame and you can see how things may take a turn for the entertaining here, with various plot twists of every kind popping out of everywhere to change the course of our story.

And the result is too charming to dislike really, it has an obvious throwback style that works to its favor, but its the balance Mr. Ozon achieves between that more old-fashioned feel to it and the more contemporary stylings that make it rise above. The silliness of the plot which was embedded on the 30-year-old play he’s adapting from is still very much there, but you can tell Mr. Ozon has done everything he could adapting it into a story in which the talents of Ms. Deneuve, and certainly of Mr. Dipardieu, too, could come to shine as best they could.

This is just one of those French films that everyone will be able to enjoy, one that’s at time sort of satirical but never in a way that feels overbearing, just in one that makes great fun of its 1977 period by playing with the music and fashion and dialogue that seems reminiscent of some sort of sitcom at times and of some sort of soap opera others. But really, subtle complexities are just an afterthought in this one, I cannot stress more the fact that Potiche is a movie made to and worthy to watch for the talents of Ms. Deneuve and Mr. Dipardieu.

These are two screen legends, after all, and in Potiche they really show us why they have earned that legendary status. These roles handled by lesser actors would have been either caricaturesque or good at the slapstick comedy at best, but when given to such fine thesps they can add all these little things to the characters that make them much richer and make you feel as though they have their own history and their own complexities that make the film immensely better. And Mr. Ozon knew this, he knew Ms. Deneuve and Mr. Dipardieu would bring this total professionalism, that they would mesh incredibly well for him like they have for others in the past, and that’s a very careful calculation from him, a director that hadn’t been producing as great movies in recent years as we’ve seen him do in the past and that with this one shows us that while he isn’t exactly quite there again yet, he definitely has a lot of fuel left in the tank.

Grade: B+

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