Easy-Listening 70s Feminism in Potiche

03/16/2011 4:00 AM |


Directed by Francois Ozon

Meticulously lite, Francois Ozon’s 1977-set retro romp prides itself on taking none of its pop feminism seriously enough to mean much or offend. Traipse along with Catherine Deneuve—as Suzanne, a factory owner’s trophy wife given the reins during labor strife—and a cast of luxuriantly coiffed 70s action figures: Suzanne’s arrogant philandering husband (Fabrice Luchini) and his loyal secretary mistress, a spiteful conservative daughter, an artsy lefty son. Ozon’s snappily edited adaptation of the original play tracks Suzanne’s presto transformation, finding easy laughs in fun-with-chauvinism (especially during her verse-scribbling housewife stage) before marking time with family-business intrigue and limp romantic farce.

Diverting the eye with candy colors, attractive actors and iconic stars, Ozon’s film relies most upon Deneuve, selectively arch and reasonable as the plain-dealer wrangling her brood and workers. She’s there to acknowledge the silliness while making it ok to watch, her affable amusement a sure sign of the durability of her star persona. The comic stance actually softens as the story progresses, lightly sprinkled with revelations from Suzanne’s racy past and glimmers of a shifting political future. Another axiom, Gerard Depardieu, plays a Communist Party leader with a prior connection to Suzanne, and his bulky grace adds the slightest variety (in speed and body) to a uniformly outfitted movie.

You could chart cultural attitudes in the wary circling by mother and daughter (and secretary), each putting forth her own take on independence and the application of power. But a best-of-the-decade glibness lurks in the shadows, though there’s one nice moment in which betrayal is telegraphed through a change in hairstyle.

Opens March 25th