By Kimber Myers | The Playlist September 8, 2010 at 5:00AM
François Ozon has two modes: quietly restrained ("5x2," "Time to Leave") and gleefully unhinged ("8 Women," "Criminal Lovers"). Like most of his more recent work, his latest film, "Hideaway" (more appropriately titled "Le refuge" in French), lies sadly in the former category, focusing on a drug-addicted woman and her pregnancy in the wake of the baby's father's death. He's better (and far more interesting) when there's crime involved or other outrageous acts ("Swimming Pool" and "Sitcom"), but when he dwells in the mundane, his films veer toward boring. He remains a gifted filmmaker, but not as essential as he was in his youth.
Isabelle Carré stars as Mousse, while Melvil Poupaud makes a brief appearance as her lover, Louis. They've set up a sad existence in an empty apartment, where their days are governed by heroin and lifted by the arrival of their dealer. Mousse and Louis overdose in the film's first scenes, but only Mousse emerges from the experience alive, much to the anger of Louis's family. When Mousse awakens in a hospital, she learns that she is pregnant with Louis's child. With the exception of his gay brother, Paul (Louis-Ronan Choisy), his family urges her to terminate the pregnancy.
Mousse escapes from Paris, finding a haven in a seaside cottage where she isn't haunted by her city life. Paul unexpectedly shows up on his way to Spain, and the pair forge an uneasy domestic existence where they surprisingly manage to bond, despite Mousse's prickly behavior. Paul forms an attachment to a local man (Pierre Louis-Calixte), while Mousse begrudgingly adds him to her quiet daily routine.
"Hideaway" combines a number of Ozon's favorite themes, including grief ("Under the Sand"), sexuality (umm, practically all his work), and familial relationships ("8 Women," "5x2," etc.). Motherhood, specifically, is a frequent subject for the director, who has previously focused on maternal relationships in films as diverse as the unnerving "See the Sea" and the fairy tale-like "Ricky." His Mousse is no monster, but she is an extremely selfish creature who doesn't appear ready for motherhood. Ozon sought a pregnant actress to play Mousse, and Carré is perfectly cast. She's cagey and distant, but her performance somehow still manages to draw the audience in, which is not to say that she approaches likability. Mousse is frustrating and difficult. There's a lack of glamour in her performance, and her lack of interest in making the audience like her makes you want to watch her all the more.
"Hideaway" is the first film for singer Choisy, and he makes an easy transition to acting. He's not given a lot of heavy lifting though; Paul is a (too) saintly character whose goodness is thrown into stark relief by Mousse's inability to see beyond herself, so Choisy simply does a lot of patient looks and doesn't respond to Mousse's irritable or irrational moments (which seem to go beyond the influence of hormones and into obnoxiousness). Choisy also serves as composer, and his work here proves him an able songwriter as well.
Other than brief moments with a few other actors (Poupaud, Louis-Calixte), the film focuses almost entirely on the characters of Mousse and Paul and therefore rests on the shoulders of Carré and Choisy. Despite solid work from the actors, "Hideaway" sometimes suffers for its too easy characterization of both Mousse and Paul. It's an intimate film that doesn't hesitate to zero in on its actors and their characters, particularly in their most awful moments, but there's a surprising lack of depth. Characters do what is expected of them for most of the film, then they diverge entirely from what has been established, creating a lack of believability in an otherwise realistic film. [B-]