Populaire review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Most mainstream French movies are about love, no wonder considering France is considered the birthplace of romance and all that good stuff but most of the time those films always seem to blend together and Populaire feels oddly familiar, especially to anyone who has seen Amelie or Romantics Anonymous, two delightfully funny films that Populaire borrows most of its story from.
Set in 1959 ,Populaire tells the story of Rose (Deborah Francois), a young woman from a small French village chomping at the bit to experience everything the new modern world has to offer. She moves to the city to become Louis’ (Romain Duris) secretary but he only seems interested in her typing and the fame he could achieve if he entered her into competitions, that is until he sees her potential.
While feeling like a rehash at times, Populaire is quintessentially French and for that reason it is a charming, heartwarming and captivating picture that is a loving tribute to the unbreakable spirit of a people who are still recovering from the 2nd world war a decade later. The film uses the war to add context and character to Louis, a member of the resistance who doesn’t fear conflict but everything else, especially genuine feelings.
This is made clear by a standout performance by Berenice Bejo (The Artist) as Louis’ long time friend and old flame Marie, a woman who knows exactly what kind of man Louis is and can cut to the core of him in seconds. The film is filled with rich characters like Marie, Rose and Louis and the film manages to handle their many demons in a light hearted way. So while it may descend into the realms of Disney in its conclusion it is a heartfelt drama about a man accepting his flaws and a woman discovering she might not be as perfect as she thinks she is