Potiche

D Alleged comedy

I don’t like it when Roger Ebert complains that a lousy movie wasted two hours of his life. After all, it’s his job. He’s paid for it. And watching even the worst picture is better than what most people have to do for a living.

But I review films as a hobby. Therefore, I feel completely justified complaining that Potiche wasted 103 minutes that I will never get back again.

Potiche also wastes two of France’s great stars–Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu–in an unfunny feminist fantasy set in the late 1970’s. The period setting is part of the problem. The 70s were an important time in the Feminist movement, so the setting makes sense thematically. But Director François Ozon tries to turn 1977 into a joke, with exaggerated costumes and hair. Even the overly-cute opening credits, filled with split screens, stretch for a once-hip style (although they get the period wrong, suggesting the 60s more than the 70s).

Despite Depardieu’s co-billing, Deneuve is the real star as the unhappy wife of a rich, ultra-conservative industrialist (Fabrice Luchini). With her evil husband (don’t look for any subtly here) hospitalized, she takes control of his factory (which once belonged to her father) and runs it much better than he ever could. Depardieu plays an elected Communist politician (such things existed in France in the 70s) who had a potichefling with the wife when they were both young. There’s a suggestion that their romance may again kindle.

In her late 60s, Catherine Deneuve is still a remarkably attractive woman. But Depardieu has not aged anywhere near as well. The handsome stranger in The Return of Martin Guerre has let his weight go seriously out of control. He no longer works as a romantic lead, even when the ingénue is a grandmother. I found myself worrying about Depardieu’s health.

I think I chuckled three times in this movie, although I often wondered if I was supposed to be laughing. Ozon seems to think it funny when three worried people sit down simultaneously. At one point he resurrects that old gag of someone hearing bad news and spitting out their drink. I saw that joke coming about ten seconds before it hit. True, I also saw the same joke coming before it hit in Airplane, but that old gem knew how to land an obvious joke in a surprisingly funny way.

Most of Potiche is predictable. The rest of it is surprising in ways that are neither satisfying nor entertaining. I’d give you an example, but really, it wouldn’t be worth your time.

All things considered, this is a pointless time at the movies. I, at least, did not have to pay to see Potiche. If you see it, you will have wasted your time and your money.

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