Review: Potiche


Directed by: Francois Ozon
Written by:Francois Ozon
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godreche, Jeremie Renier
Released: April 21, 2011
Grade: A-

Potiche is a sweet, charming, delightful French comedy.  I saw it late last Friday night after an excruciatingly long week.  I felt tired walking into the theatre but I left with a spring in my step and a satisfied smile on my face.  This is a crowd pleaser.

Set in 1977, the story centres on a wealthy family who own a profitable umbrella making company.  Robert (Luchini) has run the business with an iron fist for many years.  The unions have been trying to secure better wages and better working conditions for the employees but Robert has refused to bow to their demands.  They’ve retaliated by going on strike.  Neither side is prepared to budge.

Things take an unexpected twist when Robert suffers a heart attack.  It’s apparent that it was brought on by work-related stress and he is ordered to take a few months off.  With no one else to turn to, he hands the reigns of the company to his wife, Suzanne (Deneuve).

Suzanne has spent her entire marriage being the “trophy housewife”.  She cooks dinner, keeps the house clean and is always there to support to her husband.  She knows that he’s been sleeping around with other women but she’s kept quiet, as if afraid to create any tension within the household.

Now suddenly in control of a multi-million dollar company, Suzanne comes alive.  She has power, she has responsibility, she has a purpose.  She may not have much experience but her passion and enthusiasm starts rubbing off on those around her.  With the help of an old friend (Depardieu), she reaches a compromise with the unions and sales start increasing.

I hope I haven’t made this sound too much like a drama because it’s anything but.  Legendary critic Roger Ebert summed it up best when he tweeted “Deneuve. Depardieu. All you need to know.”  It’s such a simple, yet accurate point.  Just the idea of Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve together in a movie was enough for me to buy a ticket.  Now that I’ve seen just how good they are, I can tell you all to buy a ticket for yourself.  They create such wonderful characters.

They are well supported by the witty script from writer-director Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women).  Ozon wants to provide us with laughs but the film also wants to observe the changing nature of politics, women’s rights and family dynamics in France during the late 1970s.  He is a gifted filmmaker.

If you didn’t get to see the movie when it opened the recent French Film Festival in Brisbane, now’s your chance.