After an eight year absence as a director Valérie Lemercier returns to the big sreen with a disappointing, disjointed comedy which stretches an idea for a three-minute sketch into a full-length feature film dragging in its wake a trail of clichés, stereotypes and mis-timed gags.
Lemercier and Gilles Lelouche are Aleksandra and Cyrille, a bourgeois couple who have achieved material comfort on a grand scale. Unable to have children of their own, they decide to adopt a Russian orphan. In contrast to the charming, sweet-natured child they imagine will be the perfect compliment to their sophisticated lifestyle, Aleksei (Samatin Pendev) is sullen and uncommunicative and, at least in their eyes, not particularly attractive. After a rude introduction into the realities of motherhood, Aleksandra questions whether the couple have made the right decision and wonders how she is going to solve a problem like Aleksei.
Athough 100% Cachemire sets the stage for a caustic comedy about the evils of a consumer society where even a child is a piece of merchandise, it soon loses its nerve and goes for the cheap laughs. There is an over-sexed nanny who gets her thrills by rummaging through Cyrille’s dirty laundry, a possessive, Jewish mother-in-law and even career-minded Aleksandra who shows more emotion for her pet dog than her adopted son. Gone too is the opportunity to explore how modern day living has raised the expectations of motherhood to an almost ridiculous level. Aleksei is not an easy child and like other women in her position, Aleksandra gets tired, frustrated and angry, but does this make her unfit to be a mother? And how to explain Aleksandra’s sudden change of attitude towards Aleksei from anger and disappointment to tenderness and affection?
After her last film, Palais Royal, in which the main character dies in an accident, Lemercier said she wanted to be more generous with her female leads . This could explain why Aleksandra’s feelings change course so inexplicably, but it makes for an uncomfortable shift in the film’s tone. Lemercier is far more credible as the prickly, foul-mouthed woman at the beginning of the film than the sweet-tempered woman she turns into. While Lelouche, who made such an impression as the reluctant hood in Gibraltar, creates a Cyrille who lacks consistancy and seems a different person in every scene.
Lemercier has shown in the past she is a gifted, comic actress, and 100% Cachemire does not do justice to that talent. In French cinemas: 11/12/13