Marie-Francine: Freewheeling Valérie Lemercier [critique]

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Back to basics for Valérie Lemercier, four years after the failure of 100% Cachemire.

Shortly after being acclaimed in Cannes for Aline, his “right wrong” Celine Dion biopic, Valerie Lemercier is in the spotlight on TF1, this Sunday, with the broadcast of Marie-Francine, his comedy released at the cinema 4 years ago. The pitch? At 50, dumped by her husband who left for a younger one, Marie-Francine must return to live with her parents. At work, it is not better: she is considered too old and she is threatened with reclassification. Cohabitation with his parents becomes unbearable. Marie-Francine can’t stand them trying to resettle her with men who don’t attract her for a second. In a small cigarette shop that she now runs, she meets the charming Miguel, a charming cook who is in the same situation as her. Despite the circumstances, they try to live their budding love …

With Aline, Valérie Lemercier tries something new: the fan biopic [critique]

In spring 2017, Valérie Lemercier confided in First that the reception assassinates 100% cashmere had traumatized her. This comedy as acidic as it was serious (it played a woman stubbornly refusing motherhood) was undoubtedly too serious for its audience, yet accustomed to its humor and its deeply offbeat personality. Would she have sworn to herself that she would never be taken over? With Marie-Francine, the actress and director does not take any risk. She has written herself a made-to-measure character of a great bourgeois in full collapse, forced to go live with daddy-mom after a separation from her unfaithful husband and the loss of her job. Tanguy meets Back to my mother.

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On rails

The parable is obvious: Marie-Francine who returns to the fold shuffling her feet, it’s Lemercier who remakes Chatiliez in tipsy aristo mode, precisely where we expect her. Val is back, always also in the West, always so quick to pastiche an environment which she knows well with its characters of distant and conservative snobs, its worldly ways and its spirit of seriousness. We laugh sometimes, a bit out of a (class) reflex, a bit out of loyalty to Lemercier who puts on the show with his usual sense of self-mockery. Then, the soft purring, not unpleasant, snores when Marie-Francine meets a prolific cook played by Patrick Timsit from whom she hides her condition. The potentially explosive encounter between the two best comic triggers of the 90’s is unfortunately marred by Lemercier’s desire to favor the effectiveness of romcom over the ambiguity of social satire. The film will not recover from it, which is not to make us happy. We even wish Val to return to success and move on to crazier projects that conform to his causticity shrouded in tenacious melancholy.

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