Swear to God I wasn’t planning to address The Bridesmaid in terms of its director, given how “Chabrolian” has become a critical cliché for measured, dampen-the-bourgeoisie intrigue, and good Chabrol and bad Chabrol genres unto themselves. But the story about a golden son who falls for an enigmatic siren is so insistent on its smooth texture awaiting a ripple that the mood approaches meta-suspense: could the laughable central fear of a forward female, garnished with red herrings, really be all he’s up to?
Philippe (Benoit Magimel), a hard-working young contractor, lives with his ineffectual kindly mother and two sisters, one an aggressively blasé teen and the other a newlywed-to-be. A bridesmaid (Laura Smet, daughter of Nathalie Baye) catches his eye (mesmerizes, more like it), and soon shows up rain-soaked at the door, looks eerily like a piece of statuary in his front yard, etc.
Amour fou rolls up right on schedule; she wants him to murder someone, anyone, to prove his love. Will he, won’t she, but, more often, are you wondering more about his mother’s absentee late-autumn boyfriend, or the younger sister’s embrace of petty crime, or Philippe’s challenges at work? Because actually, in the filler foreground, there’s a naturalism that makes Chabrol’s suave sullying feel more and more like a tic than a project worth continuing: why not just make a straight drama? (Or why not a release of his more recent Comedy of Power, based on the French Elf corruption case and starring Isabelle Huppert as investigating judge?) Instead, we get a ruinous Grand Guignol ending, the eruption a trite echo of a morbid newscast shown early on.