Those of you who parlez-vous français, you know that POTICHE means ‘trophy wife’. This Parisian flick takes us back to 1977 where we meet 60-something Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve) who has been a trophy wife for over 30 years to an uptight philandering man, Robert (Fabrice Luchini). Robert’s health fails in the midst of a strike, pushing seemingly innocent Suzanne into her husband’s role of running the family owned umbrella company created by her father. To everyone’s surprise, Suzanne does well at the helm of the company, using kindness and her former relationship with the union leader (Gérard Depardieu) to her advantage.
There are more things wrong with this film than there are right. At first I thought this was going to be a really fun, quirky 70’s based movie and was excited to see Suzanne run a blue collar company dressed in pearls and furs while working alongside her husband’s mistresses. It almost felt like a French version of 9 TO 5 with an over the top cheesy twist. However, the longer this film went on, the more I disliked our heroine and the random direction of the storyline. With multiple sexual partners throughout Suzanne and Robert’s marriage, the sympathy we first feel for Suzanne as the sweet tempered naïve housewife sours.
With a wink and a nod to the audience, this film begins embracing the campy acting and attitude but somehow loses focus taking on an unnecessary serious tone. It is hard to follow a film that starts one way, changes mid course and then wraps up with a musical number that comes out of nowhere. The filmmakers should have stuck with a direction for the film and added a bit of heart to the characters that the audiences are supposed to support and embrace. There are many tones that this film could have taken and if they would have stuck with one premise, I think that the movie would have been more successful and entertaining. Too bad the filmmakers had to cram in multiple themes and change direction.
The acting was nothing more than fine. Tackling the role of ‘potiche’, Deneuve does a nice job keeping her sweet temperament throughout the film. From angry, boisterous union leader to soft-spoken and broken-hearted, Depardieu has a bit more range but again I would use the word ‘fine’ to describe his performance. Staying the course with Robert’s hard-shelled and greedy character, Luchini does a great job creating a character you dislike right off the bat. The only character with a journey I semi-cared about or enjoyed was Robert’s in-office mistress and secretary, played by Karin Viard. Her character development from the start to finish was full of hope and I appreciated the bad to good transformation.
The one thing I can endorse in this film is the costuming and late 70’s set design. I loved the use of color, especially in something as whimsical and fun as an umbrella factory. As the only redeeming factor for this lackluster film, the costumes do not add enough to make the movie worth seeing.
Video (Widescreen 1.85:1): The picture highlighted the fabulous 70’s costumes quite nicely.
Audio (French 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio): Nothing remarkable on screen for the audio to matter much. The audio was fine for this dialogue driven film.
Costume Tests (5:42): The characters try on multiple costumes and pose for the camera. Boring.
70s Trailer (2:10): POTICHE developed a trailer straight out of the 70s. More entertaining than the film.