Film Title: Populaire
Director: Regis Roinsard
Starring: Romain Duris, Deborah Francois
Running Time: 110 min
Its 1958 and, with a nod to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, small town gal Rose (Déborah François) is dreaming of the glamorous possibilities that life as a secretary may bring. Her attempt to land such a position at an insurance firm looks doomed until, with a nod to Mad Men, prospective boss Louis (Romain Duris), realises that Rose can type like the clappers. Together, with a nod to Pygmalion, might Louis be able to coach his klutzy charge toward glory in the national speed typing championship? Will anything happen between them on the road to secretarial primacy? And will we care less?
For all the film’s pandering and button-pushing, our crystal ball is telling us there’s at least one thing wrong with this title. On paper, Populaire looks high concept and clever. In practice, there’s so much day-glo artifice that we’re left with nothing substantial to cling to and so much calculation (it’s this meets that meets the other!) that there’s no possibility of a heart existing behind the hollow mechanics.
Occasionally, debuting director Régis Roinsard remembers that he is trying to be Jacques Demy, a realisation that triggers all sorts of incongruous moments, including a weird subplot with a nod to The Artist, featuring, well, The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo. More frequently, the film-maker recalls that he’s knee deep in a Mad Men-shaped puddle, a notion that brings about a deluge of unconvincing 1950s iconography. This isn’t a movie: its a ditzy, half-assed look book.
Populaire is both too frothy and yet not frothy enough to be fun. It is, moreover, a criminal waste of Duris, the star of The Beat That My Heart Skipped; François, the star of LEnfant; and Bejo, who took home the Best Actress award from the Cannes Film Festival last week for her performance in Asghar Farhadi’s The Past.
What can they have been thinking?