Your familiarity with the work of France’s most celebrated playwright may well dictate how much enjoyment you can glean from Laurent Tirard’s populist fantasy about an unwritten (and untrue) episode in the life of the great Molière. Played by Romain Duris, the king of sophisticated comedy is introduced as a frustrated artist, desperate to have his travelling troupe play something more weighty than the kind of frivolous froth demanded by his regular commissions.
A visit to the deathbed of lost love Elmire (Laura Morante) provokes Molière into a lengthy flashback which, Shakespeare in Love-style, details the circumstances which might have led him to create theatrical staples like Tartuffe, The Misanthrope and The Bourgeois Gentleman.
It’s a clever, but heavy-handed set-up which leads one to believe that Tirad, as both screenwriter and director will provide some insight into the great man’s creative process. Yet, the notion that Molière’s base materials were handed to him on a plate by circumstance proves a demeaning one. A passable costume romp, this incarnation of Molière comes over as little more than a sulky, grasping nobody, stitching up his bourgeoisie masters for no reason other than pettiness, and leaving the film as little more than a scribbled gloss on a great artist’s brilliant career.