(French with English Subtitles)

Friday March 2, 2012, 7.30pm for 8pm start.

Review by Margaret Pomeranz
Fabrice Luchini is a French actor that always engages, although his ability to play contained uptight men who meet their own comeuppance is fast becoming a cliché. In this he is a stockbroker, Jean-Louis, who adheres to a rigid schedule of a perfectly cooked egg before he sets off to work. His wife Suzanne (Sandrine Kiberlain) is running up against their maid, a left-over from the regime of his mother who died only a short time ago. In the dust-up the old maid quits which leaves this bourgeois house devoid of anyone to do the real work. Suzanne's friends recommend one of the many Spanish women who are floating around Paris in the early 1960's, refugees from Franco's oppressive regime. No sooner are Jean-Louis' eggs cooked perfectly by Maria (Natalia Verbeke) than he becomes involved in the lives of the serving women who live on the 6th floor in his building, where the plumbing is appalling and all sorts of matters need the intervention of a good-hearted bourgeois, which Jean-Louis becomes, mainly because of the charms of Maria.

This is very superficial, crowd-pleasing fare with a large dollop of sentimental paella thrown in for good measure. Almodovar stalwarts like Carmen Maura and Lola Duenas feature in the maid's quarters but it is Luchini and Kiberlain who ground this film in some sort of 1960's reality. They are both meticulous in their performances.

It is enjoyable on a certain level but the simplistic representation of these warm-blooded women cracking open the frigidity of the French middle class becomes a bit hard to swallow after a while. Jean-Louis' succumbing to their charms is occasionally discomforting. You are left with a degree of sympathy towards Suzanne but try as you might it's hard to want the best for Jean-Louis. It's even harder to embrace the feel-good contrived ending.

Margaret: three-and-a-half stars David: three-and-a-half stars


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