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Madam Nadine manages with pride the "Vénus beauté" Salon which offers relaxation, massage and make-up services. The owner and her three beauticians: Samantha, Marianne and Angèle are pros. Contrary to her friend Marianne, who still dreams of the big day, Angèle no longer believes in love. Marie, the youngest of the three employees, discovers love in the hands of a sixty year-old former pilot, who risks everything...Written by
L.H. Wong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This stars Nathalie Baye, not Audrey Tautou, of Amélie (2001) fame. (She has a supporting role.) Baye is Angèle, a 40-year-old Parisian beautician who has loved and lost a few too many times. Indeed, as the film opens we (and Samuel Le Bihan as Antoine) watch and hear her being dumped once again. Well, she is careless with men. She is perhaps too "easy." She picks up men, the wrong ones. She is aggressive in her desire. And now she has become cynical. All she wants now are one-nights stands, no more love, no more unbreak my heart. Love is too painful.
So when Antoine falls in love with her at something like first sight (I do have a weakness for love at first sight: it is so, so daring, and so, shall we say, unpredictable) she rejects him out of hand even though he is a vital and handsome artist, confident and winning. What IS her problem? But he pursues her even though he is engaged to another (Hélène Fillières). And when she gets drunk and wants some casual sex with him, he says no. He wants her fully in control of her faculties.
So this is a romantic comedy of sorts centered around a beauty parlor. However any resemblance to Hollywood movies in the same genre (Shampoo (1975) and Hairspray (1988) somehow come to mind) is purely coincidental. Here the salon is brightly and colorfully lit with a tinker bell as the door opens, and the clientele are eclectic to say the least: an exhibitionist who arrives in a raincoat and nothing else; a rich old man lusting after Tautou; a woman with oozing pimples on her...(never mind)...etc.
What makes this work so well is a completely winning performance by Baye, sharp direction by Toni Marshall, and a kind of quirky and blunt realism that eschews all cliché. Tautou fans will be disappointed in her modest part, but she is just adorable in that role. The voyeur scene in which she is willingly seduced by the rich old guy may raise your libido or your envy depending on where you're coming from. Ha!
See this for Nathalie Baye who gives the performance of a lifetime, simultaneously subtle and strong, vulnerable and willful. She makes us identify with her character and she makes us wish her love.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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