2010, R, 103 min. Directed by François Ozon. Starring Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Judith Godrèche, Jérémie Renier, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 22, 2011

A lightweight confection, this French import slides down easily even though it never truly satisfies. Adapted by the filmmaker from a play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy, Potiche never acquires any psychological depth or narrative flourish. The comedy is somewhat diagrammatic and forced, though the film’s delightful performances and brilliant color palette see it through any rough patches. The 1977 setting also amplifies the film’s superficial mood as it recalls (especially during the opening-credits sequence with its jaunty music and split screens) the tenor of any one of a number of late-Seventies French sex comedies. Deneuve has the leading role as Suzanne Pujol, the trophy wife of the title (which is how the word “potiche” is translated). She is married to a rich, sexist adulterer (Luchini), who owns the umbrella factory that was founded by Suzanne’s father and was part of the dowry she brought to the marriage. (That the umbrella factory echoes Deneuve’s early film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of the film’s unspoken charms.) Workers’ strikes and the women’s movement permeate the late-Seventies atmosphere, and when the disgruntled umbrella-makers take their boss hostage, it’s not long before the mildly resentful trophy wife steps in to take his place. Further complications arise with the entrance of Maurice Babin (Depardieu), a former union leader and lover of Suzanne’s, who is mortified by his attraction to this paragon of the bourgeoisie. Suzanne’s two grown children (Godrèche and Renier) also demand her time and attention, yet the unflappable Mrs. Pujol takes it all in stride. Deneuve and Depardieu are refreshing in the leading roles, almost because of their age rather than in spite of it. Yet, the characters still never come across as flesh-and-blood human beings they remain concepts that never emerge into recognizable people. Except for the closing song, which further relegates the story into the realm of fantasy, the film is, nevertheless, a tasty morsel.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More François Ozon Films
A bitter-sweet romance in the aftermath of WWI

Josh Kupecki, April 7, 2017

The New Girlfriend
A Frenchwoman discovers the secret hidden by her best friend's husband

Marc Savlov, Sept. 25, 2015

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
The Last Tree
British migrant coming-of-age drama empathetically explores what it is to belong

July 17, 2020

The Truth
Binoche and Deneuve clash exquisitely as mère et fille

July 3, 2020


Potiche, François Ozon, Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Judith Godrèche, Jérémie Renier, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle