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As a little girl, Federica fantasized about having beautiful long hair that would grow back as soon as she cut it, about never-ending cones of cotton candy and about countless adventures that took her to the far side of the world. Now a charming thirty-something-single woman, Federica's fantasies have evolved, adding lovers, stardom, and motherhood to her waking dreams, where Federica continues to press for her everyday life to be as real as the fantasies that invade her. Unfortunately, Federica's daydreams can only provide a meager distraction from the reality she faces. Her career as a successful playwright is heading south, her boyfriend is pressuring her to start a family, a former lover wishes to rekindle an old affair, her sister is barely talking to her, her brother is self-centered and her loving father is terminally ill. And as if to make matters worse, Federica is rich, too rich, and the guilt that consumes her because of it is pushing her over the edge. As Federica ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter kingdom of heaven
That's what is written in the Gospel and it could be a metaphorical illustration for the tail end of the film with a surrealist odor.
By her simple acting, her easily recognizable voice, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi has become one of the most endearing actresses in the landscape of French cinema. When a viewer watches one of her films, he often keeps her in mind and so far, she followed an honorable and occasionally rough road in cinema. She was superb to François Ozon's in "5x2" (2004) and "Le Temps Qui Reste" (2005) and to the couple Olivier Ducastel-Jacques Martineau, "Crustacés et Coquillages" (2005) but her acting and her game sometimes played tricks on her. Claude Chabrol made a mistake by giving her the role of a woman-cop in his already mediocre "Au Coeur Du Mensonge" (1999). Because of her high-pitched voice, she made her part ludicrous. Another setback was with "Ah! Si j'étais Riche" (2002) because she fell into her own caricature.
Well, if she was rich, she wouldn't be the happiest person in the world. It is well known, money can't buy happiness and, here in the case of Frederica, quite rightly so. She's the daughter of a rich immigrated Italian family who left Italy to settle in Paris and lives with her boyfriend, Pierre (Jean-Hugues Anglade). She writes plays, has dancing lessons and has rather difficult relationships with her family, particularly her sister Bianca (Chiara Mastroianni). What doesn't make things easy is that she constantly has a heavy feeling of guilt due to the wealth of her social background. Moreover, she found back a one-time lover (Denis Podalydès) who has a crush on her again and galvanizes her to live with him again. Soon, she's going to inherit her father's fortune and this makes her only more edgy. Her solution to relieve her strained spirit? To confess to her priest whose trouble go beyond him. Yes, poor little rich girl Frderica struggles to find sense to her life...
For the topic of her first directing, Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi didn't complicate the issue. She took as a source of inspiration her own memories of a childhood spent in a posh, rich world. Some aspects of the persona she developed throughout her film must have been the same she she felt once in her past life. Like a good number of beginners who have a stab at directing for the very first time, the quality of her work is uneven, spotty. It's like a patchwork of a little desultory sequences sometimes badly meshed. She moves on from one scene to another without logical link. A certain scattering brings out of the film which also could have gained by being curtailed of about half an hour and being more tightened and pithy. Some moments also smell improvisation and directing is often flabby but thanks to the degree of contribution of the actress/director in his film, the audience never loses the thread of the steps in Frederica's agitated life. Her quirky scheme evolves on two directions centered on imagination and reality to better render in images Frederica's edgy spirit. So it gives whimsical moments like the last scene with the man in the park who got Frederica pregnant but also oddball animation sequences. The best one being the first one when she tries, in her imagination to make the camel go through the eye of a needle and it's not easy! But her vivid dreamy world is also interspersed with childhood flash-backs. All this to flee from a sultry familial atmosphere and not to think too much of such a big amount of dough...
Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi also grabs the viewer's attention when she evokes the insurmountable frontiers between social classes. Three conspicuous sequences: the first one when she and Pierre are with an estate agent in a flat and they talk about price of the rent. Frederica: "for you, it's too much", "for me, it's not enough...". The second one takes place when they have lunch at Frederica's parents'. Pierre, a socialist history teacher unveils his very tumultuous past before this posh world. The last scene in the queue when Pierre enumerates some "rules" of the aristocratic world which reminded me of Jean Renoir's magnum opus "la Règle Du Jeu" (1939). Still, on the plus side, Frederica's stormy even violent relations with her bilious sister filmed in a hard-hitting way. Did Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi have similar relation in her past life? Possible... But she kept a certain tenderness for her characters and there's a deadpan humor which suffuses in her work.
For her first directing, she gathered a bevy of estimable thespians: Denis Podalydès who curiously is often typecast in the same genre of character as the actress/director: clumsy, bashful but always endearing, it's evident in his brother Bruno's films. Chiara Mastroianni, Lambert Wilson shine and perhaps the best of the batch: Jean-Hugues Anglade. This good cast makes up a bit for the drawbacks previously quoted.
Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi's first film isn't exempted of drawbacks which are pertaining to a good pack of actors who have a stab at directing for the first time but it certainly doesn't deserve such a lowly 5.4 out of 10. It commands sympathy and if she is in your straitjacket of favorite contemporary French actresses, "Il est Plus Facile Pour Un Chameau..." has your name on it and might appeal to you. Her career as a filmmaker rather starts under auspicious skies. She collected the Louis Delluc prize for her work, maybe would it be bad to relinquish this direction...
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