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Populaire (3 stars)

Immaculately styled French period romcom starring Déborah Francois and Romain Duris

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Populaire

This immaculately styled French period romantic comedy signals its pedigree with a colourful cartoon credit sequence reminiscent of cute and kookie Hollywood comedies circa the 1950s and 60s. And in fact, co-writer and director Régis Roinsard’s feature debut is loaded with references and heavily indebted to vintage Hollywood cinema, from Doris Day rom-coms to Billy Wilder caustic coms by way of Alfred Hitchcock, to whose film Vertigo Roinsard makes the most explicit homage.

Set in 1959, the film opens with shy small-town shop-girl Rose (Déborah Francois) who manages to secure herself a position as a secretary in a minor insurance firm run by dapper boss Louis (Romain Duris). It swiftly becomes apparent that Rose is utterly hopeless at her job, but her one saving grace, an uncanny if unrefined ability to type very quickly, prompts Louis to take her under his wing and enter her in a series of regional, national and finally international speed typing competitions. During the course of Rose’s rapid rise to fame, which takes her all the way to New York City to type against the reigning world champ, protégé and mentor, predictably enough, fall for one another. And, inevitably, the course of their love does not run smooth…

Roinsard’s clearly concerned with gender roles at a point in post-war history when they were on the eve of great change. Somewhat disappointingly, the social and sexual commentary is sidelined by the film’s typing competition-focused action – admittedly handled with real aplomb – and is otherwise buried beneath the inarguably beautiful period dressing. Television’s Mad Men covered similar territory and successfully combined dramatic sophistication with good looks. But Don Draper and co this ain’t.

GFT, Glasgow, Fri 15 Feb as part of Glasgow Film Festival. On release from 31 May 2013.

Populaire

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • FR
  • 111 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Regis Roinsard
  • Written by: Regis Roinsard, Daniel Presley, Romain Compingt
  • Cast: Deborah Francois, Romain Duris, Berenice Bejo
  • UK release: 31 May 2013

France, 1959: insurance company secretary Rose (Francois) is hopeless at her job except for an uncanny gift for speed-typing. Her boss (Duris) enters her in a competition and romance strikes up. A kooky romcom, heavy on period style and references to vintage Hollywood cinema but low on content.

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