Based on the best-selling book by Katherine Pancol, Belgian director Cécile Telerman has produced an entertaining chic-flic, full of warmth and humour which explores the complicated relationships between women without descending into dreary, psychological drama. This is Telerman’s third film and as she demonstrated with her previous outings – Quelque chose á Te Dire (Blame it on Mum) and Tout Pour Plaire (Thirty-five Something) – she has a real talent for uncovering the truth behind female relationships and laying them bare. But the tone remains light and the casting of Julie Depardieu and Emmanuelle Béart in the lead roles is inspired.
Josephine (Depardieu) and Iris (Béart) are sisters with completely different lifestyles and personalities. Jo is an historian specialising in the twelfth century while her older sister lives the carefree life of a well-heeled Parisian with her beautiful apartment, skiing holidays in Courcheval and second home in Deauville. During a dinner with friends, Iris boasts she is in the middle of writing a book. Trapped by the lie, she persuades Jo, whose husband has just left her and who is crippled with debt, to write the book in return for the money. The book becomes a huge success and changes the relationship between the two sisters and those around them.
Les Yeux Jaunes des Crocodiles is a film with a simple moral. Good people get their just rewards, while others…well, the crocodile in the title is there for a reason. Although the film is set against a backdrop of debt, unemployment and single-motherhood, these issues are merely plot devices and not a jumping off point for biting social commentary. There is also a certain American movie feel to the way characters learn from their mistakes while the scenes of Jo hanging out with her BFF definitely have more of an Anglo than a French bent. But this is a French film based on a French novel, so there are some cliches – expansive family dinners, ‘ladies who lunch’ in chic Parisian bistros and that casual Gallic acceptance of marital infidelity.
Depardieu and Béart are perfectly cast as the odd-couple siblings. Béart as the sexy, vacuous, machiavellian Iris has never been better while Depardieu excels as the frumpy, downtrodden Jo who allows everyone around her, including her pretentious 15-year-old daughter, to use her as a doormat. When the tables start to turn, it is entirely credible and deeply satisfying. Good performances too from Patrick Bruel as Iris’ devoted husband and Samuel Le Bihan as Jo’s untrustworthy husband. Not a film to keep you talking deep into the night, but an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
DIRECTOR’S BIO – CECILE TELERMAN