Potiche

Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini

Director: François Ozon

POTICHE means trophy wife and Francois Ozon’s film can be easily encapsulated as the story of a trophy wife that gets off the shelf. Catherine Deneuve is better than the film deserves as Suzanne who we first meet as an almost Disney wife running through the French countryside in a red tracksuit and headscarf while spying wildlife and penning bad poetry. At home she is a the perfect background wife to her aggressive philandering husband but when a strike erupts in the umbrella factory he inherited from his wife, it causes his health to fail and when she takes over, Suzanne discovers her strength and independence. Deneuve is stunning both as the trophy wife and also as her strength re-emerges.

It is a slight story and pretty predictable. Much of the tone of the film mimics the gaudy colours of it’s seventies setting. Indeed the film is almost “Carry On” in places, the later ones though, when innocent double entendres were replaced with bad sex.

There is a strong message of independence here and the relationship between Suzanne and the other characters is often better than the story deserves.

Her husband is a monster utterly without redemption except in one scene where he reminisces over the woman he met and realises what he is losing. It is an interesting monster and well played by Fabrice Luchini but sadly he isn’t in the film enough. Instead we concentrate more on Suzanne’s son and daughter. The way they work with and against her are interesting but distract from her story a bit too much and make the film longer than it needs to be to tell its story.

It wouldn’t be a French film or at least one that travels outside French shores if it didn’t have Gerard Depardieu in it and here he displays his usual effortless charm in a small but important role as a former lover and then rival as Suzanne grows in stature.

Ozon gives the whole film a seventies gloss, both in the way it revels in the bright colours and tasteless clothes and in the captions and use of split screen. It’s a shame then that it feels like a story out of time and despite the best efforts of Deneuve – rather dated.

It is always to be admired when a film makes it’s way outside of France but I suspect this has more to do with it’s stars than it’s relevance.

The film ends with a very strange ensemble song and dance. Probably the strangest thing about it is that it doesn’t seem so incongruous in this dated, mildly enjoyable but ultimately forgettable oddity.

3 out of 6 stars

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