Régis Roinsard makes his feature length directorial debut in this charming, albeit predictable, French romantic comedy. Marketed as ‘Mad Men meets The Artist’, its glamorous styling does aesthetically fulfil this promise and – in the same way as when Michel Hazanavicius [director of The Artist] paid homage to the silent films of the 1920s -Roinsard’s tribute to 1950s Hollywood has also been well-received by critics.
Set in 1958 Rose Pamphyle, played by the wonderfully alluring Déborah Francois (The Page Turner), rejects her future as a provincial housewife and applies for a secretarial position in Lisieux, Normandy. Although ill suited to the role, Rose draws the attention of handsome insurance broker Louis Échard (Romain Duris, The Beat That My Heart Skipped) as a talented typist. Rose’s transcribing techniques reignite within the sharply dressed Échard the passion and sporting ambition that he once felt as an amateur boxer and runner in his youth. As a result, Rose is hired – as long as she’ll agree to compete in the lesser-known sport of competitive typewriting. Roinsard’s efforts to recreate all the elements of a sports drama ensure that this ends up being slightly more excitable than perhaps one might expect.
A turbulent relationship, littered with sexual tension, ensues; eventually becoming a less than professional, although not entirely convincing, relationship between Échard and his protégé. Unfortunately, the somewhat insubstantial plotline meant that there was never really much at stake for our heroine – aside from the affections of her coach.
Whilst neither Duris, Francois nor Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) – who plays Louis’ former sweetheart – are at their best, Populaire is a playful, occasionally witty and light-hearted film; a French offering that entertains by not demanding too much of its audience.
Populaire was released in the UK on the 31st May 2013