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Potiche - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B-
Acting: B+
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Potiche begins with a scene of Catherine Deneuve jogging. She emits a characteristic radiance. Then she stops as soon as she spies a deer just off the pathway in the woods. This would have been enough, but then she notices a bird. And a squirrel. It's almost enough to make one wonder, What is this, Bambi? Well, not quite -- since in this case Thumper is humping. Still, the scene is so cutesy that it's almost a surprise the bird doesn't alight on Deneuve's finger.

But, such is the nature of Potiche, a fun movie that really wants nothing more than for you to have fun watching it. The curious thing about it is its lack of modern sophistication. Set in the late seventies, no doubt to align itself with a time when women enjoyed fewer privileges than they do today, it plays a lot like something we might have seen at the movies in the seventies. Or maybe even the sixties.

Costume and set designers went to fairly impressive lengths to evoke the era, a stab at authenticity that stands in contrast to the way the characters behave -- which is not at all realistically. The conflicts and resolutions are broadly oversimplified, but at least the actors had fun with it.

Deneueve is the "trophy wife" of the title (evidently a French equivalent for the term), living in ignorant bliss while her husband runs the umbrella factory he inherited by marriage as a tyrant. The workers go on strike; they hold their boss hostage; the man is hospitalized -- not by injury, but my stress, apparently. (The word "stress" is never used, only vague allusions to "an attack" and his need for "his drops.") Somehow, after their two grown children offer ridiculously lame excuses even by movie standards, Deneueve finds herself filling in for him.

And, naturally, she discovers the drive and business savvy she never knew she had. She flirts with the union representative (Gérard Depardieu, looking like he could stand to skip his next slice of pie) with whom she had an affair 25 years earlier. She convinces her heretofore resistant children to come and work at the factory. The daughter is severely conservative. I kept thinking the son will have to come out at some point, he was so fey, but then I realized -- he's just French.

Most movies these days make at least a half-assed attempt at realism; even with comedies, it's part of the modern sophistication that audiences generally expect. Potiche takes the retro route, not concerning itself one bit with genuine plausibility. This woman, who has supposedly been a housewife for thirty years and never worked a day in her life, seems to learn the ins and outs of the business in a matter of days. What's more, she manages to repair relations with the workers, and even increase productivity.

That is, until the predictable twist comes along to threaten it all, and the relationships all around -- with the workers, with the husband, with the children, with the old flame. This is really a very conventional movie and it makes no effort to pretend not to be. In a way, that's almost refreshing. As it is, Potiche, while nothing particularly special, is a pleasant diversion. If nothing else, it's a delight to see Catherine Deneueve in the lead role. She elevates the proceedings with nothing more than a natural charm. That's about sums up the movie as a whole: cutesy but charming.

(L-R) Judith Godrèche, Catherine Deneuve, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Jérémie Renier and Gérard Depardieu compose the body of fluff that is 'Potiche'.

Overall: B
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