Both this film and its central character are so unapologetic that it's difficult to get either out of your head long after the final credits roll. A fictionalised version of a notorious real story, this is an unflinching account of how the rich and powerful live seemingly above the law. Until they crash with a thud so loud it's heard around the world. And as an exploration of how money and privilege corrupt the soul, this film is essential viewing, no matter how uncomfortable it is to watch.
At the centre is Devereaux (Gerard Depardieu), the corpulent head of the World Bank, whose life is a whirlwind of prostitutes, drugs and wild sex parties, even as he still has hopes of one day becoming president of France. Then in a five-star suite in a Manhattan hotel, he unthinkingly assaults a maid (Pamela Afesi). And he has no idea why he's being arrested in a media frenzy. He calls his wealthy wife Simone (Jacqueline Bisset) for bail him out, and she reluctantly drops her charity work to fly to New York and rent a house for them for the duration of his trial, standing by his side for the cameras, along with his daughter Sophie (Marie Moute). But Devereaux is so sure his political connections will get him off that he remains utterly unrepentant.
Depardieu is astonishing in the role, giving a fearless performance as a man who is so self-absorbed that he can't even begin to think that his actions might hurt someone. Consequences don't matter to him, because he's always done whatever he wants. And Depardieu is utterly transparent in every scene, most memorably when he is strip-searched by the cops and, even more disturbingly, when he mauls a young journalist (Shanyn Leigh) interviewing him about the trial. Opposite him, Bisset is radiant and fierce as a woman worn down by her infant-like husband, but standing by him against her better judgment. Their bristly conversations in the final act play out in long takes that are seriously gripping.
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Devereaux is well known by the people closest to him as an uninhibited playboy, using his wealth and his high status as a rich French politician to gain him access to a whole world of sexual adventures. Despite the fact that he has a loving wife, nothing stops him in his pursuit of pleasure, but such undisciplined behaviour is always likely to be dangerous. After one spontaneous encounter with a New York hotel maid, he finds himself suddenly accused by authorities of being a rapist. While everyone knows of his womanizing ways, no-one would've suspected such an occurence and Devereaux is left cowering and desperate, and feeling guilty that his lifestyle has led to such injustice. Will a man who has so many big ideas on rescuing the economy manage to hold his high for long enough to protest his innocence? Or has he managed to end his promising career?
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