‘Populaire’ proves popular in France and Australia
This light-hearted comedy, true to its name, is quite the crowd pleaser.
An hommage to 1950s American rom-coms, this film exudes nostalgic Hollywood glamour while remaining discernably French. The effect is colourful, playful, and genuinely delightful.
A French film with commercial appeal
Not since ‘The Artist’ has there been a French film with such high critical praise internationally. ‘Populaire’ won the Audience Award at the 2013 Césars, was nominated for five other categories, and enjoyed success at various film festivals around the world.
It may not delve deeply into complex emotions, nor does it offer social commentary, but it is hardly superficial. ‘Populaire’ is director Régis Roinsard’s first feature-length release, and is cleverly styled to stay true to the 50s period, while still feeling modern and fresh.
The casting is as strong as the styling. Heartthrob Romain Duris dazzles in his dominant role, while Bérénice Bejo adds her pin-up girl sass. One critic commented that ‘Populaire’ is “like a musical comedy without the songs”1; a fairly accurate summary, considering the exaggerated acting methods.
A girl, a boy, and a typewriter
Our héroïne, Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois), is determined to make her own way in the world. Leaving her little Normandy village for the town of Lisieux to find work as a secretary, we quickly discover that Rose is adorably clumsy and unfit for the job. Her saving grace? Rose has a talent for typing.
Her preening boss, Louis Echard (Romain Duris), has a strong sense of competition and sees this potential in Rose. He hires her on the proviso that she lets him train her to compete in the French typing championships. With that, c’est parti!
Professional relationship turns personal
Louis is serious about the competition. To maximise training efficiency, Rose moves in with him. By day they work in the office together, and by night they train in the salon of Louis’ grand home.
Rose, however, has more on her mind than just the prize. She succumbs to the charms of her domineering patron, while Louis himself is oblivious to the growing romantic tensions.
Louis’ old flame, Marie (Bérénice Bejo, ‘The Artist’), and her American husband play their part in nurturing this blossoming affaire de cœur. Unfortunately, the thrill of the contest and the excitement of New York invariably get in the way.
Ultimately, it is up to Louis to decide which is more important: the girl or the prize … or are they one and the same?
Back by popular demand
‘Populaire’ screened for three weeks as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival in March. It proved to be such a hit that, at the end of the festival, it was among a select few titles that were brought “back by popular demand” as an audience favourite.
Did you catch ‘Populaire’ at the cinemas? We’d love to know what you thought – share your comments here!References:
1. ‘Populaire film review‘ via the Dailymail. Image credits:
1, 2 & 3. Populaire, via Allociné.
4. Populaire, via Imdb.