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Potiche Early Reviews: Delicious French Feminist Comedy

by Anne Thompson
March 4, 2011 8:30 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood


A fest favorite at Venice, François Ozon's feminist comedy Potiche (New York and LA, March 24, followed by a national release), stars a comedic Catherine Deneuve as a 70s trophy wife who takes over her husband’s umbrella factory while he is away and loves it so much that she tries to take it back from him. She has been flirting with an old lover, Gerard Depardieu, for decades. Even though the vet French star is as big as a house, their scenes together are delicious. This comedy is commercial enough to score with a stateside art-house boomer audience. A round-up of early reviews, the poster and trailer are below:

Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian:

"It's a wacky 70s-period screwball comedy with a blue-chip cast and a tone which is arch, knowing and self-aware but also somehow affectionate and even, I suspect, deeply serious about the indomitable spirit of France itself, in the queenly person of Catherine Deneuve. It is a veritable palimpsest of irony levels; perhaps only a French audience can fully respond to its nods and winks…[it is] an absurdity carried off with great style, technique and narrative flair…You need a sweet tooth for this film, but Ozon does pastiche and style very well, and manages to bring Potiche to life more effectively than his other comparable piece, Eight Women (2001). A little over-extended, perhaps, and weighed down a little by theatrical origins, but a tremendously elegant piece of fun."

Robert Beames, ObsessedWithFilm:

"a self-consciously kitsch social satire with two heavyweights of French acting in leading roles…[the] setting gives Ozon free reign to make political points on matters of gender equality and social class – with a distinct Goddard influence which is most visible when the boss is taken hostage in his office by striking workers: a famous scene from Tu Va Bien riffed on here, with panache. This socialist aspect feels somehow timely, with the film coming out with the world still in economic crisis: a failure of world capitalism…But the gender politics feels a bit tired and redundant. No doubt sexism still remains, but the cookie cutter view of suburban womanhood parodied here feels overly familiar, whether you’ve seen it done to death in Desperate Housewives or any number of other films and TV shows. It just all feels a bit obvious. That is, I suppose, if you come to the conclusion that the film’s admiration of Deneuve’s character is sincere."

Fernando F. Croce, Slant:

"More like Pastiche. Back in kitschy-feminist 8 Women mode, François Ozon channels Jacques Demy (pink umbrellas and all) for this plush hymn to the fabulosity of all things Catherine Deneuve. The campy tone is set in the opening sequence, as French cinema's knowing empress is introduced in a jogging tracksuit and tasteful curlers, cooing at fawns and winking at squirrels…Ozon's romp is less interested in charting a bourgeois wife's private revolution than in doting on feathery coifs, split-screens, and geometric wallpaper. Deneuve does plenty of elegantly funny swanning, and works up iconic poignancy with Gerard Depardieu (as her unionist-turned-mayor ex-lover). It feels churlish to carp when a star is having so much fun, though I wish the material didn't play like a Gallic remake of Mamma Mia!"

Thompson on Hollywood

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