Les Destinées Movie Review
You better damn well like plates if you're going to suffer through the three hours of Les Destinées, an exhausting family drama about a porcelain empire and just as hard a flick as its subject matter.
The story follows some 30 years in the life of Jean Barnery (Charles Berling), heir to a porcelein company yet enough of an ingrate to abandon it in favor of becoming a minister. Jean falls in love with sour Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert), quits the ministry, eventually divorces, falls for a young yet also sour girl named Pauline (Emmanuelle Béart), and finally returns home to reclaim the reins of the porcelain firm. Along the way, there's war, labor unions, and the threat of cheap competetion through globalism (already, in 1920!) from Germany and Japan.
And all the while there are plates to be made, people.
When the movie is not showing us Jean's turmoil in love, life, and career, it's showing us other people talking about Jean's turmoil in love, life, and career. Jean reflects and re-reflects. Then his friends and family follow suit. What should he do? Lord knows, but he'll have a stomach ulcer before it's said and done.
While large in scope and attentive to period detail, Les Destinées is unfortunately lacking in soul, unlike the masterful Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring, and missing out true grandeur like the equally great Sunshine. Fingers can be pointed at a script that's twice as long as it needs to be (Jean's early life choices are particularly uninteresting) and a sappy sentimentality that makes every little decision a gut wrencher, but Berling is wholly unable to carry the lead with his pouty little face and utterly void stage presence.
I'd also be remiss without mentioning how silly Béart's "old lady" wig and makeup looks. Elderly women have wrinkles... even in France.
Aka Les Destinées sentimentales.