Every threat of sentimentality and melodrama is averted by a seriously strong cast working from a snappy script. It may be warm and gentle, but the honest humour and twisty plot make sure the audience is entertained rather than manipulated. And there are some startlingly edgy scenes along the way that allow the actors to create spiky, fully formed characters while clearly having a great time in each other's company.
Based on writer-director Israel Horovitz's stage play, most of the action takes place within a vast old flat in central Paris that has just been inherited by Jim (Kevin Kline), who flies in from New York so he can sell it. He's at the end of his rope and needs the cash, so is unnerved to discover that the apartment is a "viager", a quirk in French property law that allows the past owner to remain in the home for the rest of their life. So Jim can't sell the flat as long as 92-year-old Mathilde (Maggie Smith) is alive, and her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas) immediately locks horns with Jim, who has already been in touch with a despised developer (Stephane Freiss). As the days pass, Jim is so determined to figure out how to make some money off of this property that he ignores the much bigger things going on around him.
Kline actually manages to make the deeply bullheaded Jim surprisingly likeable, adding a generous charm to the character's overpowering inner misery. So while he dismisses both women out of hand, the audience can see that there might be some substance there. Smith and Scott Thomas are of course terrific as the put-upon women trying to defend their lifelong home. And all three characters must face some unexpected truths about their own pasts in order to plot a course forward. This messy, revelatory plotting is so much fun that the hint of romance between Jim and Chloe feels almost irrelevant.
Continue reading: My Old Lady Review
Madame Marie-France (Lvovsky) is struggling to keep her brothel open in 1899 Paris. Even though her licensed high-class girls have loyal clients, trouble is brewing. As the new century dawns, Madeleine (Barnole) is viciously attacked by a regular customer (Lacotte), and there are also the usual worries of pregnancy and syphilis. Although at least there's a new girl, 16-year-old Pauline (Zabeth), to attract fresh customers. But rising rent and shifting morality is changing the business, and Marie-France may need to take drastic measures to survive.
Continue reading: House of Tolerance Review
The movie is a personal exploration into the limitations and expectations of fidelity. The film is penned and directed by the notable French actor Yvan Attal (The Criminal), who is married to a famous French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg (The Cement Garden), and both star in the film.
Continue reading: My Wife Is an Actress Review
In real life, sort-of-famous French actor Yvan Attal is married to very famous French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, and their fourth film together -- entitled "My Wife Is an Actress" -- is a belly-button-gazing comedy that explores and exaggerates Attal's own neuroses about being married to a big star.
Attal writes, directs and plays a sports journalist -- also named Yvan -- who has been very happily married to a famous actress -- named Charlotte, played by Gainsbourg -- for a couple years. But he's beginning to go a touch crazy with jealousy over having to share her with the world. It's bad enough being interrupted by autograph hounds every time they go out and dealing with strangers who accost him about his feelings regarding his wife's nude scenes. Now every nagging doubt he's had is boiling to the surface because of Charlotte's lady-killing cad of a co-star (Terrence Stamp) in her latest film -- a romantic drama with a major sex scene.
Percolating with potential, "My Wife" has inspired moments of behind-the-scenes wit, and Attal effectively taps into his character's (or is it his own?) psyche as Yvan's paranoia brings out the worst in him. But as the plot advances and the husband-wife relationship becomes strained, the comedy becomes dependent on extremes of emotional immaturity in these two characters, which only serves to make them annoying. (And what's with the random subplot about Yvan's sister arguing with her husband over circumcising their as yet unborn son?)
Continue reading: My Wife Is An Actress (Ma Femme Est Une Actrice) Review
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