Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' David Fincher Says Differences Over Casting And Disney's Corporate Culture Stalled '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Review: 'No Good Deed' Starring Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics Watch: Shailene Woodley Gets NSFW In 2 Clips From 'White Bird In A Blizzard' Plus New Pics TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More TIFF Review: 'Cake' Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, Sam Worthington & More Watch: First Trailer For Rom-Com 'Playing It Cool' With Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Aubrey Plaza & More Watch: First Trailer For Rom-Com 'Playing It Cool' With Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Aubrey Plaza & More Watch: First Trailer For ‘Serena’ Starring Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper Watch: First Trailer For ‘Serena’ Starring Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper First Look: Matthew McConaughey & Ken Watanabe In Gus Van Sant’s ‘Sea Of Trees’ First Look: Matthew McConaughey & Ken Watanabe In Gus Van Sant’s ‘Sea Of Trees’ Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' Tom Hardy Says He'll Never Do Another Romantic Comedy Again Thanks To 'This Means War' David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made David Fincher Apparently Thinks 'Dragon Tattoo' Sequel 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' Could Get Made Revisiting On The Rise: Where Are Our 2012 Picks Now? Revisiting On The Rise: Where Are Our 2012 Picks Now? Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 Fall TV Preview: Our 22 Most Anticipated Shows For The Rest Of 2014 TIFF Review: 'Still Alice' Starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin & Kate Bosworth TIFF Review: 'Still Alice' Starring Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Alec Baldwin & Kate Bosworth The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes

Rome Review: French Rom-Com 'Populaire' Is A Chocolate Box Movie - Pretty, Sweet, May Cause Slight Sugar Headache

The Playlist By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist November 13, 2012 at 8:27AM

The Weinstein Company secured the U.S. distribution rights to “Populaire,” the '50s-set French rom-com that premiered Out of Competition at the Rome Film Festival, back in March, and it’s easy to see why. Boasting a chic, stylized period setting, dotted with bubblegum colors, sharp tailoring and lacquered updos, the film is the kind of undemanding confection that should prove a straightforward transatlantic sell, while its insouciant French-ness adds that bit of class that perhaps its nearest recent U.S. equivalent, “Down With Love,” lacked.
2

Populaire header
The Weinstein Company secured the U.S. distribution rights to “Populaire,” the '50s-set French rom-com that premiered Out of Competition at the Rome Film Festival, back in March, and it’s easy to see why. Boasting a chic, stylized period setting, dotted with bubblegum colors, sharp tailoring and lacquered updos, the film is the kind of undemanding confection that should prove a straightforward transatlantic sell, while its insouciant French-ness adds that bit of class that perhaps its nearest recent U.S. equivalent, “Down With Love,” lacked. But while comparisons with the megasuccessful “The Artist” are inevitable (and it even boasts that film’s star, Berenice Bejo, in a supporting role), “Populaire” lacks a few of the vital elements that goosed its French predecessor all the way up to the Oscar podium: an Academy-friendly inside-baseball industry feel, and more importantly, a narrative that unfolds with anything but complete, pristine predictability. It’s not like “The Artist” was gritty, but “Populaire” is so cotton-candy breezy it makes the Best Picture-winner look like “The Panic in Needle Park.”

Populaire 2

Set in the apparently fiercely competitive world of 1950s typing contests, the winners of which become megastars complete with weeping fans and lucrative endorsement deals, “Populaire” details the rise and rise of Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois), a naïve but spunky village girl with naught but her prodigious talent for typing to help her achieve her dream of being "modern." Her raw skill is uncovered by her first employer, insurance man Louis (Romain Duris), himself a veteran of the Resistance and a perennial second-place sportsman. He co-opts her into a platonic arrangement whereby he becomes her coach, she "trains" night and day like an athlete, and he gets (we presume) to vicariously live out his dreams of being number one through her. But crikey! They fall in love and then a load of manufactured romantic comedy nonsense keeps them from being together until it doesn’t and the film ends. 

And now we feel mean. This movie is too amiable to be overly cutting about, unless you enjoy kicking puppies, and if it’s overlong, its sheer affability means it never feels like it has wholly overstayed its welcome. Still, with the plot as threadbare as it is, there’s really no need for the running time, and those of us with a working knowledge of the rhythms and beats of the romantic comedy formula may feel like the will they/won’t they cycle plays out once to often before the inevitable "they will." But our bigger narrative issue is simply this: once Rose’s initial failure to qualify in the very first contest is over, it’s nothing but meteoric rise from there on throughout successive competitions -- and there are a few of them. They’re nattily rendered, the clacking of varnished nails on keys, the swishing of paper and the dinging of carriage returns all form a pleasantly percussive backdrop to what should be increasing stakes. But here, those stakes are not clearly enough drawn, and the way in which her competitive life and romantic life interrelate is not made easily understandable. Shouldn't there be some bumps along the road to eventual bliss, that our girl needs to overcome in order to learn something about herself? Here, Rose simply has to wait for Louis to come to his senses and get on the inevitable plane, all the while eviscerating the competition. 

Populaire 3

And so, though it's attractively played -- Francois all perky klutziness, Duris bringing a certain hauntedness to an otherwise frothy part -- the final clinch feels, not unearned exactly, but hardly worth the hoops we had to jump throughout to get here. Especially considering we had just watched these two get it on minutes previously. And if there's any reason other than wilful Frenchness that Roinsard shoehorns in that completely ill-judged sex scene, we'd love to know what it is. It's a silly, jarring moment of writhing limbs lit by neon, that sticks out sorely among the prim ponytails and eyelash batting elsewhere. The film so adores the kind of Rock Hudson/Doris Day aesthetic, that it really would have been more in keeping to have simply cut to the rumpled bedclothes or some such, in the more prudish way of the time. 

That sole scene aside, the film is determined to charm you, and probably now with the might of Weinstein behind it, you are going to be powerless to resist. They are, after all, not exactly unversed in how to market meticulously rendered period films with slight stories - just see "The King's Speech," "Shakespeare in Love"  and "The Artist." Oh, you already have. "Populaire" deserves similar treatment for the cuteness of its visuals and its total desire to please, but we do feel that, with its overall sugariness, along with GASP subtitles, it won't manage to quite replicate that level of critical or commercial success. [B]

This article is related to: Rome Film Festival, Review, Romain Duris, Déborah François, Berenice Bejo, Populaire


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates