When her husband is taken hostage by his striking employees, a trophy wife (Deneuve) takes the reins of the family business and proves to be a remarkably effective leader. Business and personal complications arrive in the form of her ex-lover (Depardieu), a former union leader.Written by
Based on a French play, Potiche (aka. Trophy Wife) is set in 1977. Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve), a 'trophy housewife', finds out she must step up to manage her tyrannical husband Robert's (Fabrice Luchini) umbrella factory after the workers go on strike and take him hostage. To everyone's surprise, Suzanne proves herself to be a very competent leader of action. Her adult son and daughter also start to take more interest in the workings of the factory. Things get complex, however, when she bumps into her old flame and local politician, Maurice Babin (Gérard Depardieu), and her husband returns to take back his job.
Whenever a film of recent years, like this one, try to fully capture the feel and style of a 70's film (or anything retro) with editing, camera tricks, and colors reminiscent of that era, I can't help but smile. Had I not known that this film was made in 2010, I could have been convinced that this was a film made in that decade. Of course, this is aside from the dead giveaways to the contrary with the appearances of well-known French actors who have obviously aged.
Directed by François Ozon (Swimming Pool), this is a well-done, entertaining and visually attractive satire. A mixture of pastel and hot colors permeate throughout the film, along with bell-bottoms, retro hairstyles, design patterns, and clothing. The colorful umbrellas in the film are perhaps a good reminder of Deneuve's older, famous film, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The colorful, playful, comedic tone of this film remains consistent, yet there are just enough complexities in the plot to keep the film from getting dull. Advertisement
Admittedly, there's something rather monotonous about casual adulterous relationships in French films. It's almost expected in a French comedy (Unlike in America, French must find adultery sooooo funny). Robert has a mistress who is also his secretary, Nadège (Karin Viard), whom Suzanne knows about. Nevertheless, Suzanne is content with her life at home as Robert provides for her, materially. Once Robert is taken hostage and Suzanne takes over as manager of the company, the secretary becomes one of her closest allies. Meanwhile, her son Laurent (Jérémie Renier) and her daughter, Joëlle (Judith Godrèche), help out on the company as well, which does bring the family together more than before.
Catherine Deneuve is quite likable in this film. It's hard not to cheer for the initially soft-spoken Suzanne. She is a cheerful character with a certain naïve optimism that makes her charming to people around her. And, well, she gets things done. Once she is proved to be a fairer and better leader than Robert, one can't help but be engaged in what she will do next. There is a side story regarding her past affair with Maurice (Depardieu), who still has feelings for her. The relationship between them does not take a typical turn, which I appreciated. While Robert comes off mostly as a buffoonish character, he isn't portrayed as someone to be simply reviled, thankfully.
Overall, this is a colorfully entertaining, satirical film with playful characters and a nice retro style. Catherine Deneuve is a lot of fun to watch, and while this is not a subtle film by any means, it has enough energy and humor to be engaging throughout.
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