05 September 2010

Working Girls

For a town so renowned for its film festival, the movie options in Cannes tonight was somewhat mediocre. Excluding the films I've already seen, my choice was limited to a) a French Kristin Scott Thomas psychological thriller, b) The Expendendables dubbed into French and c) some random Korean film dubbed into French. I had sworn off KST films after seeing the interminable Partir, but I didn't fancy seeing how Jason Statham's cockney accent would come out in French and the translation loss was only going to be worse in the Korean film.

So KST film it was, specifically Crime d'amour. And actually, it was pretty good, not least because KST plays an utter bitch (of the Katharine Parker / Miranda Priestly genre) rather than a very sad woman with a troubled past and lots of moping to be done. There was no moping in Crime d'Amour; instead it has touches of Working Girl with a splash of Fatal Attraction for good measure. KST plays Christine, the head honcho at the Paris branch of some multinational agri company; Ludivine Sagnier plays Isabelle, the number two, although from the way Christine treats her, you would think she was more of a secretary or a personal assistant. Spoilers follow, but only because otherwise I could only talk about the first half of the film.

Anyway, Isabelle works super-hard, staying up late to put the finishing touches on her projects, doesn't have time to see her sister and her family, and doesn't have much of a social life beyond the gym but she is good at her job and Christine tells her so often. But then Christine takes credit for Isa's work one time too many and tells Isa she's got to be more ruthless if she wants to get ahead. So Isa schemes with the help of an admiring (male) minion to make sure the guys in the US office realise who is really the brains behind the company's latest successes. And the US bosses decide that maybe they shouldn't be so hasty in promoting Christine to be the head of the New York office. Natch, Christine isn't very pleased about this and decides to put Isa back in her place (It helps that they're both screwing the same guy, another colleague).

Except Christine has underestimated her protégée and how far she will go to get ahead and avenge the wrongs that have been done to her. She goes to Christine's house and stabs her to death having first donned gloves and a protective suit. She then proceeds to frame herself, using Christine's finger to write "Isa" in her own blood on the floor and placing a scrap of material from Isa's scarf in Christine's hand. Isa is soon arrested and sent to prison in an, apparently, drugged out stupor. Of course, we know Isa wouldn't have framed herself for murder without some scheme in mind and sure enough, all of her meticulous plans soon pay off as the police realise their "mistake" and circle in on the "real" culprit. Meanwhile, Isa gets Christine's job and it's looking like she'll be promoted to the US office as well. But did she cover all of her tracks or might one of the minions know something? And what if in ousting Christine, she had to become like Christine and steal a bit of glory on the way up?

Crime d'Amour was entertaining and sharp and I do like meticulously planned plots; Isa really must have a criminal mind. It did amuse me that all the guys in the film were either idiots or cads (or both). Ludivine Sagnier had to be a good 20 years younger than a lot of the men sitting around the company's boardroom table and yet she and Christine have trumped them all. Meanwhile, all the secretaries and more junior employees seem to be men. Is the point just that if you let two women run a company, they'll just waste all of their energy competing with each other and, ultimately, destroying each other? Is the point that this ridiculousness wouldn't have happened if the company was run by men? I don't think the film would have been very effective with two male leads or even with a male boss and female protégée.

Gender politics aside, KST's and Sagnier's performances were very convincing and the film was way better than Les Expendables would have been. And I can't say fairer than that.

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