The Bridesmaid Review
By Chris Barsanti
At first glance, she doesn't seem like much -- maybe it's the dress. When Philippe (Benoit Magimel) -- the slim, self-satisfied, smart-but-stupid chump in Claude Chabrol's psycho-drama The Bridesmaid -- sees Senta (Laura Smet), a bridesmaid at his sister's wedding, he's intrigued by something in her direct stare and later, flirty brush-off. However, when Senta appears unannounced at the door of his mother's home (where Philippe, a mama's boy practically smothered by her constant compliments) a few hours later and then proceeds to strip off the wet dress and have her reckless way with him, he becomes positively interested. When later she starts in with all that talk about how they're fated for each other and, hey, what if they each committed a murder to prove their love, he remains interested because, well, he doesn't have much else going on in his life.
In Smet and Magimel, Chabrol has found willing partners for his bleak little tale -- like the director, they keep things under wraps, playing things close to the vest, which is harder than it may sound, given the high drama plot, taken from a Ruth Rendell novel. Philippe is a cipher straight from a detective story of years past, working as a numbers guy for a contractor in a small French town, he's completely bottled up inside his trim suits and slightly superior demeanor, just aching for something to come along and bust things up. After easing us into Philippe's life with some minor melodrama involving the three women in Philippe's house (mother, two sisters), Chabrol drops Senta in to knock Philippe out of his rut, and she's perfect for the job.
A sloe-eyed vixen who practically radiates crazy, Senta's nevertheless a fantastic storyteller, even if many of her autobiographical tales (moving to Morocco on a lark when she was a teenager, getting that small role in a Woody Allen movie, this guy she may have killed) are most likely made-up. Once her eyes lock onto Philippe's, they never again seem whole without the other; it's obsessive and inexplicable attraction presented to us as fait accompli, without any tiresome backstory or psychological justification -- when they launch themselves at each other after spending a few days apart, it's more mathematical necessity than anything else. And when the question of murder and Senta comes up (Philippe initially laughs it off, but then isn't so sure), tied in with the series of local disappearances, the love affair takes on a darker hue.
This is all noir in a very minor key, featuring a femme fatale without a score to settle, only the clanging needs of her inner voices to satisfy by whichever suitable male happens across her zig-zagging path. Chabrol has a created a placid and creepy work here, with hints of Hitchcock proliferating, from Philippe's controlling mother to the vast and falling-down house Senta inhabits like a subterranean ghost, all of it helping give this occasionally draggy and too-literal story a pleasantly perverse sting.
Aka La Demoiselle d'honneur.
Let's get married too.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 17th November 2004
Distributed by: First Run
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 47 Rotten: 4
Cast & Crew
Starring: Benoît Magimel as Philippe Tardieu, Laura Smet as Senta, Michel Duchaussoy as le clochard, Aurore Clément as Christine, Bernard Le Coq as Gérard, Solène Bouton as Sophie, Suzanne Flon as Mme Crespin, Eric Seigne as Jacky, Pierre-François Dumeniaux as Nadeau, Anna Mihalcea as Patricia, Philippe Duclos as Capitaine Dutreix, Thomas Chabrol as Lieutenant José Laval, Isolde Barth as Rita, Mazen Kiwan as Pablo, Chantal Banlier as la caissière épicerie