- BOTTOM LINE
- A Unique Royal-Era Romance That Needed Better Writing
What is the Story about?
This French historical account based on a story titled Jacques the Fatalist, written by author Denis Diderot is an aristocrat Madame de La Pommeraye (Cécile de France)’s plot to even out things when her relationship with a non-committal lover Le marquis des Arcis (Edouard Baer) goes awry. Le Marquis des Arcis is an unquestionable casanova, who enjoys romancing women until it means responsibility and investment in a relationship. Madame de La Pommeraye orchestrates the entry of a seductress Mademoiselle de Joncquières (Alice Isaaz) into Le marquis des Arcis’ life, in a bid to give him a taste of his own medicine. Things, however, don’t pan out as per her plan.
Cécile de France plays Madame de La Pommeraye, the central character of the film’s narrative. Staying in tune with the filmmaker’s instincts, she treads the subtle route in essaying the part of a widowed queen, quite elegant in her royal attires and showcasing the suaveness that her multi-faceted role richly deserved. However, you wonder if she could have been more direct in expressing her disgust/displeasure in being cheated by a non-committal lustful marquis. Underplaying a role is totally fine, but this measured portrayal largely dilutes the emotional outpour of the character.
Edouard Baer, as the casanova, is the most colourful dimension of the movie and is offered some of the best lines. His act, despite these flourishes, remains only superficial. Alice Isaaz is the film’s best performer by a far stretch, she appears too angelic to play a seductress and hardly has a page-full of dialogues; she’s still superb in letting her body language and desolate eyes do the talking.
Direction By Emmanuel Mouret?
Emmanuel Mouret, the filmmaker does a fine job in providing a distinct identity to his protagonists and never resorts to glorifying/underplaying them in the process. Lady J relies on a wafer-thin plot, confined to limited surroundings and only a handful of characters; however, none of these appear to be roadblocks for the director who takes a measured approach in tackling potentially-dramatic situations. Though the story often runs on a predictable terrain, the director packs in so much flavour with his layered treatment and his narrative pans out in a matter-of-factly fashion.
The regality in this atmosphere is captivating, to begin with, but the screenplay is so abstract and redundant that you don’t invest in Madame de La Pommeraye’s part after a point. The open-ended climax is among the film’s high points although Lady J deserved more flesh in its writing. It’s only with the director Emmanuel Mouret’s sincere efforts that you are distracted from the follies committed by the writer in him.
The character entrusted to Laure Calamy, as a trusted confidante of the princess, merits another film altogether. She’s the guiding light of the protagonist in terms of her decision-making acumen and is often forced to conceal her feelings and resist her expression. Calamy is unaffected by her screen-time issues, submits to the part and adds impressive nuance to it. Natalia Dontcheva’s portrayal of the control-freak mom of the seductress is passable.
Music and other departments?
The music isn’t quite integral to the ambitions of the film and the score is largely structured like an opera in context with the theatrics of its content. The production designer David Faivre and cinematographer Laurent Desmet are constrained by the production limitations. Within their horizons though, they make for a competent duo in enhancing the storytelling with the minimal landscapes, the man-made architecture and the set props. The producers trusting the metaphoric nature of their film ought to have offered it a more appealing canvas.
To credit where it’s due, there are beautiful conversations that flow through the film, laced with poetic value. Be it the flirtatious talk that Madame de La Pommeraye and Le Marquis des Arcis share or the former’s reveal-all conversations with her best friend, the words are a terrific extension of the film’s core intention to capture the complex nature of the human psyche.
A unique ending
Limitations in terms of scale and the visual experience
Will you recommend it?
Lady J Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur