Year: 2012 | Directed by: Régis Roinsard | Roundup Rating: B+
When it comes to quirkiness, the French has mastered its art and will always take the top prize. From time to time I do enjoy watching a good and relaxing laid back French romantic comedies, even if they come as average when compared to their Nouvelle Vague predecessors.
There are plenty of contemporary French films (well besides from Amelie) that turns out surprisingly good, but you just have to take a closer look and do your research in order to find them. Some can be considered a real gem, while there are others that are quite so-so in my opinion. Although I wouldn't go as far as to label Populaire by Régis Roinsard in the latter category as I do think it doesn't rightfully belong there and it deserve at least some credit for trying its best to become a crowd pleaser. After all, not everyone are pseudo-intellectuals, most audiences still prefer a movie that would require them less brain activity, something that would take the load off from their daily lives -- just plain enjoyment pure and simple.
Populaire is similar to those Hollywood romantic comedy films but with a French twist and quirk to it. It is a nice throwback movie for the 50s, and I wouldn't go to all the cultural stereotypes during this decade in order to stay on track with my review.
Subjectively speaking, there are bits of this movie that were on trope with my real life. First is the name of the two female characters, Rose (Deborah Francois) and Marie (Berenice Bejo), which happens to be my true name combined. Just like Rose Pamphyle, I am an exceedingly good and fast typist in real life, both with a typewriter and computer. And if there was an ongoing sport for typing I would have joined those competitions in order to give my life some sense of purpose and meaning to it.
During the 50s it is odd for a woman to have a special skill on anything unrelated to household chores, it sets her apart from the rest, and it makes her difficult to be loved. If you are a feminist watching this movie can be either an excruciating experience or a proud moment. I enjoy it best when Louis (Romain Duris) treats Rose as his equal, he trains her, pushes her to be a champion and expects her to have a self-fulfilling career. In a way our real feminist icon here is our male protagonist. Rose is just a fledgling, and she's still got a lot of learning to do.
The Cinderella story element is commendable especially in its quest to showing us women that hard work (pays off and it) always beats the impossible. The anticipation and the excitement of the typing competitions proves nothing short of exhilarating, just like the characters I often bet on Rose to losing over her opponents because of my intense desire to see her win. I guess the irony of winning-losing is realized immediately by Roinsard. The only thing I didn't like much are its cheesy bits before the very end that reduced this film into a standard romantic cliche. The backstage confession and the last minute kissing scene is crap, the French can always get away from not showing us these unnecessary last-minute details, however they did and it cost this film to lose some of its unique Gallic charm.
The art, production set, costume design and its matching soundtrack has perfectly captured the French yesteryear's look, fired up in all cylinders, not just superficially but more so convincingly. All in all every facets of the movie played cohesively and it reinforced my love for the fashion sense of this decade. It is fascinating how the French can whip a story from the ordinary-everyday, like secretaries and typing machines, and transform that idea into something whimsical and colorful like a bag of candies.
Movies are supposed to be our shining beacon in our tunnel of dark and I hope this motion picture will lighten up your day as it did mine. Cheerios!