Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Populaire

Like biting into a stale cupcake, Populaire is all decoration, no substance.

Sept 4, 2013

-By Sarah Sluis


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1384118-Populaire-Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Anyone tempted by the colorful, confection-like look of the French romantic comedy Populaire should head right for the classic romantic comedy section of their favorite streaming service. Any in the lot will be twice as funny and half as appalling as Populaire. The story of an aspiring secretary who is guided to the speed-typing championships by her charming but unavailable boss is set in the 1950s, and embraces the stereotypical clichés of the era more wholeheartedly than the very films it emulates. The viewer not only has to endure the predictability of seeing a “small-town girl making it in the big city,” “the secretary falling for her boss,” or the fervent belief that “no woman can be complete without love,” they have to watch a film which applauds these stereotypes.

Other throwback adaptations have understood that depicting the values of the era doesn’t mean there should also be a wholesale endorsement of them. “Mad Men” also has typewriters going in the background, but its take could not be more different than Populaire. A more apt comparison may be to the cute Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, which had modern appeal because it featured a ’30s-era Amy Adams hopscotching around social mores. Populaire is embarrassing—its heroine simply cannot succeed on her own, we’re told, unless she’s loved by another. The race to the finish, therefore, is less about the aspiring champion, and more about her coach running to declare his love for her. Only then can she really type fast. Are you running from the theatre yet?

Young Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) wants to get out of her small town. She also doesn’t want to marry the most eligible bachelor in the village, a fact she emphasizes to her father with a one-line yell and pushing some jars off a table, which seems so utterly typical you wonder if the movie is a farce. During an interview to be a secretary, she gets the job by showing off her spectacular hunt-and-peck skills—and unwittingly revealing a bra strap in the commotion. Combined, it’s enough for insurance exec Louis Échard (Romain Duris) to hire her. He takes her on, not as a secretary but to prepare her for the speed-typing championships. He’s tough on her in training, but it appears she’s falling for him. If he feels the same way, he doesn’t show it. His gruffness towards his pupil may have something to do with his lingering love for his childhood neighbor (Bérénice Bejo), who is married to his friend, a former American G.I. (Shaun Benson).

Even if one weren’t bothered by this uncritical time travel to 1958, the movie itself doesn’t have much going for it. The typing competitions, admittedly hard to make cinematic, lack in thrills and suspense. Montages should be a movie’s fun, guilty pleasure. Here, the “training” one is completely boring, and the “Now you’re a star!” one is barely better. The actors here are given fairly one-dimensional characters, and they’re unable to do much more with them. In particular, the romance between Rose and her boss is hard to fathom. During a misunderstanding, she’s presented as his fiancée, and she somehow seems thrilled by the association, despite his poor behavior towards her.

Perhaps The Weinstein Company acquired Populaire in hopes of another The Artist, another France-made romance set in the past that charmed U.S. audiences. The similarities between the movies end there. Populaire attempts to ape ’50s romantic comedies, yet it misses the playfulness and subversive jabs present in the movies of the era. Disappointing in its conventionality and superficiality, this movie only makes you yearn for the period classics that Populaire can’t even approach.


Film Review: Populaire

Like biting into a stale cupcake, Populaire is all decoration, no substance.

Sept 4, 2013

-By Sarah Sluis


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1384118-Populaire-Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Anyone tempted by the colorful, confection-like look of the French romantic comedy Populaire should head right for the classic romantic comedy section of their favorite streaming service. Any in the lot will be twice as funny and half as appalling as Populaire. The story of an aspiring secretary who is guided to the speed-typing championships by her charming but unavailable boss is set in the 1950s, and embraces the stereotypical clichés of the era more wholeheartedly than the very films it emulates. The viewer not only has to endure the predictability of seeing a “small-town girl making it in the big city,” “the secretary falling for her boss,” or the fervent belief that “no woman can be complete without love,” they have to watch a film which applauds these stereotypes.

Other throwback adaptations have understood that depicting the values of the era doesn’t mean there should also be a wholesale endorsement of them. “Mad Men” also has typewriters going in the background, but its take could not be more different than Populaire. A more apt comparison may be to the cute Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, which had modern appeal because it featured a ’30s-era Amy Adams hopscotching around social mores. Populaire is embarrassing—its heroine simply cannot succeed on her own, we’re told, unless she’s loved by another. The race to the finish, therefore, is less about the aspiring champion, and more about her coach running to declare his love for her. Only then can she really type fast. Are you running from the theatre yet?

Young Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) wants to get out of her small town. She also doesn’t want to marry the most eligible bachelor in the village, a fact she emphasizes to her father with a one-line yell and pushing some jars off a table, which seems so utterly typical you wonder if the movie is a farce. During an interview to be a secretary, she gets the job by showing off her spectacular hunt-and-peck skills—and unwittingly revealing a bra strap in the commotion. Combined, it’s enough for insurance exec Louis Échard (Romain Duris) to hire her. He takes her on, not as a secretary but to prepare her for the speed-typing championships. He’s tough on her in training, but it appears she’s falling for him. If he feels the same way, he doesn’t show it. His gruffness towards his pupil may have something to do with his lingering love for his childhood neighbor (Bérénice Bejo), who is married to his friend, a former American G.I. (Shaun Benson).

Even if one weren’t bothered by this uncritical time travel to 1958, the movie itself doesn’t have much going for it. The typing competitions, admittedly hard to make cinematic, lack in thrills and suspense. Montages should be a movie’s fun, guilty pleasure. Here, the “training” one is completely boring, and the “Now you’re a star!” one is barely better. The actors here are given fairly one-dimensional characters, and they’re unable to do much more with them. In particular, the romance between Rose and her boss is hard to fathom. During a misunderstanding, she’s presented as his fiancée, and she somehow seems thrilled by the association, despite his poor behavior towards her.

Perhaps The Weinstein Company acquired Populaire in hopes of another The Artist, another France-made romance set in the past that charmed U.S. audiences. The similarities between the movies end there. Populaire attempts to ape ’50s romantic comedies, yet it misses the playfulness and subversive jabs present in the movies of the era. Disappointing in its conventionality and superficiality, this movie only makes you yearn for the period classics that Populaire can’t even approach.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

The Devils Violinist
Film Review: The Devil's Violinist

The latest classical-music legend to have his life trashed–again—by a cheaply sensationalistic movie, this famed fiddler deserved way better. More »

Backstreet Boys
Film Review: Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of

The ’90s boy band dusts itself off for a self-congratulatory, and not especially revelatory, career retrospective on the occasion of their 20th anniversary tour. More »

Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts 2015
Film Review: The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Documentary

The long shadow and in-your-face reality of mortality shadows nearly all the entries in this year’s powerful, draining Oscar-nominated documentary short films program. More »

Film Review: The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2015: Live- Action

This year’s program of Oscar-nominated live-action short films is longer on character and short on cute. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Project Almanac
Film Review: Project Almanac

Saying this underbaked Chronicle knockoff is meant for teenagers is an insult to the intelligence of teenagers everywhere. More »

The Wedding Ringer
Film Review: The Wedding Ringer

Intermittently amusing bro-comedy trifle that confirms Kevin Hart's talent, though not his taste in material. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here