Culture: Film

Review: Populaire


Sometimes reviewing movies can throw up some very diverse films. In one day I went from the violence and nastiness of The Purge to the warmth and Gallic charm of Populaire – one of those films that speaks up on you, takes you my surprise and wins you over from the moment it starts to the very last frame. If I overuse the word, sweet, in this review, I apologise now, for it is just that.

Rose Pamphyle is a demure young woman from a small provincial town in France at the latter end of the 50s, who escapes life with her father and his local store, to head for the city to work as a secretary for insurance agent, Louis Echard. Hardly impressed with her secrsetarial skills, Louis is taken by her ability to speed type using two fingers. He gives her the chance to keep her job if she moves in with him, so she can practice typing using her whole hands in order to enter and hopefully win the National Speed Typing championships. Rose reluctantly agrees and so she starts a gruelling training regime. Along the way, will the two fall in love? Or will the competition tear them apart

Regis Roinsard’s assured first feature isn’t the most original of stories and yet you can forgive it, as Roinsard scatters his film with delicious, colorful detail and oodles of wit. It has the bright feel of a Douglas Sirk melodrama with the kind of French humour that made Amelie such a winner. It also helps that he has employed two leads who have so much chemistry. It’s hard not to fall in love with them.

As Louis, Domain Duris is debonair, classy and full of screen personality.  His attitude to women during the film should make you want to hate him but the twinkle in his eye draws you in and you fully understand what Rose sees in him. Equally, Deborah Francois absolutely knocks you out as Rose. With her bright, yet naive ways, she just has to smile and you melt. Put the two together and they are delightful. Hollywood, take heed. This is how to create pure screen chemistry.

The film barely puts a foot wrong, bouncing along quite joyfully. If it does suffer, it’s from a flabby middle section that could have been trimmed by a few minutes, and a somewhat out of place sex scene that doesn’t seem right in a film that captures the mood of the 50s. These, however, are minor points.

Who would have thought that the world of competitive speed typing could be so enthralling? The training sequences are al la Rocky in style but the finale, as predictable as it may be, still manages to make you feel all warm and gooey inside. It’s light, fluffy stuff that won’t win any major awards but for sheer entertainment value, it delivers.

It’s not often that I find myself smiling throughout a film but I did here. In these challenging times, it’s nice to find a movie that goes straight for the heart, that is obviously made with love, care and attention and is an almost certain crowd-pleaser. Forget all those dark, meaningful, depressive films that sometimes come from France. If you want to feel happy inside, then head directly for this sweet, sweet charmer.

Populaire is on general release.

Words: Stuart Wren

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