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Potiche (Trophy Wife)


Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Judith Godrèche, Karen Viard, Jérémie Renier, Sergi López, Evelyne Dandry

Director: François Ozon

Sweet, ever-so-slightly saucy and unmistakeably French, this bon morceau is almost impossible to dislike. It's 1977 and, with coiffed hair just like Maggie Thatcher's, Suzanne Pujol (Deneuve) is reasonably content (she thinks) in her loveless marriage to Robert (Luchini), the much-hated boss of an umbrella factory, currently in the turmoil of a dispute.

His children - her daughter (Godrèche) tells her that 'the last thing I want is to end up like you...a trophy wife' - have their problems, and her husband is known as Hitler to his browbeaten employees. 'Well, hardly,' protests Suzanne. 'He has that forelock, but...'

Going on her non-demanding morning runs, and attending to her MCP husband's every whim, Suzanne, still blonde and lovely in late middle age, is thrust into an unexpected role when her weaselly spouse collapses, and she finds herself in charge of the factory while he's away on convalescence.

The local rabble-rousing mayor (Depardieu), who turns out to be one of several of Suzanne youthful post-marriage peccadilloes, is immediately on the offensive. In no time, however, Suzanne has negotiated a settlement in the current dispute, revitalised and modernised the company and won the mayor's heart all over again. By the time her husband returns, he finds his wife a changed woman.

With the 55 per cent holdings of herself, her children and friends, she contrives to hold on to her position. But her husband proves to be a wily (not to mention sneaky) opponent...

The are few confrontation scenes in the manner of, say, Erin Brockovich; this film seeks only to be beguiling in its own slightly syrupy but amusing fashion, to which aim Deneuve even sings at the end. Meanwhile, Depardieu gives his well-worn impression of charm unsullied by physical unattractiveness. Untypical of its director, it's over-very-easy entertainment with more bark than bite.

David Quinlan

France 2010. UK Distributor: Optimum. Colour by Eclair.
103 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 13 Jun 2011