Flimsy Whimsy – ★½
Who knew a love story based around typing could be so romantic and exciting? I didn’t anyway, and it isn’t. I’ve seen a film about a pig who wanted to be a sheep dog, a killer tyre and a bus that couldn’t go slower than 50mph, yet Populaire is one of the stupidest films I’ve ever seen.
Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) is a dab hand on a typewriter and has been practising every night in her father’s grocery shop in an attempt to get a secretary job in the city. To her this is the height of modernity and sophistication, the most a woman can hope to achieve. Louis Echard (Romain Duris) is the man in search of a new secretary and while Rose is a disaster in most areas of the job, her speed at typing is what convinces Louis to give her the job.For you see Louis has an alternative motive (and not the sinister type) – he wants Rose to enter a speed typing competition. Failing at the first hurdle, Louis demands that Rose move in with him, (convenient, wha?) to ensure non-stop practice and round the clock tuition. The film then turns into a Rocky type montage of Rose painting her nails to match the keys, running and typing ad nauseum. All this time together allows for countless hilarious situations, that aren’t funny, to arise between the unlikely couple. Louis is a grouchy chap who only cares for victory and is haunted by his time spent in war while Rose is a clumsy bright-eyed girl who is smitten with his gruff asshole attitude. Will they? Won’t they? They do.
As Nigel pointed out last month, the film does have an excellent trailer where you couldn’t tell that it’s a foreign language film. To complement this, the trailer and posters are full of American tags and mentions of other popular foreign films you liked, the one being thrown round the most is “It’s Mad Men meets The Artist” which is along the same lines as “Sightseers – it’s Last of the Summer Wine for young people”. This is all just lazy criticism as it’s clearly “Heartbeat meets Mon Oncle“. The fact it’s set in 1958 is about as close as it ever comes to Mad Men and the only resemblance to The Artist is that they both starred Bérénice Bejo.
The film will raise a wry smile at times but as you’re likely to be reading the subtitles with French not being your first language, you’re going to miss any subtle language humour or puns so synonymous with screwball. Do the French do puns? (asked Jeremy Clarkson). This leaves the element of slapstick then as the means for humour and this is pretty lacking and unoriginal when it does happen. The premise is so absurd and ridiculous it’s hard to get sucked in without stopping and going this is about a FUCKING TYPING COMPETITION.
The performances are all solid and it looks perfect for the era it is depicting but ultimately it’s unfunny and the romance is one dimensional and tepid.
France / Directed By: Régis Roinsard / Written By: Régis Roinsard, Daniel Presley / Starring: Romain Duris, Déborah François, Bérénice Bejo / 111min / Comedy, Drama / Release: 31 May 2013 (Ireland, UK)