Think Bridesmaids meets Love Actually and you’ll have the tone of French chic-flick Sous Les Jupes des Filles by actor/director Audrey Dana. This overworked, comedy about the lives and loves of a group of Parisiennes lacks originality and any genuine insight into the dilemmas facing today’s modern woman. It crudely portrays the liberated woman as being little more than the mirror image of her male counterpart, ie, she drinks too much, talks dirty about sex and has dropped any hang-ups about bodily functions.
Dana, who co-wrote the script, directs a series of loosely interrelated tales of 11 women all at a crossroads in life. She has clearly sat down and wrote a list of contemporary female issues and created a character to define each one. And the list is fairly comprehensive – breast cancer, menopause, the loneliness of the ambitious career women, finding true love at 35, homosexuality, domestic violence, infidelity, sexual frustration. Some stories play out better than others. Julie Ferrier is Fanny, a desperately unhappy woman trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage whose facial ticks and offbeat personality have increased her isolation. It’s a hugely funny, touching performance by Ferrier whose perfect timing stops the role from slipping into the grotesque. Other stories, such as über-business woman Rose (Vanessa Paradis in full Anna-Wintour mode) deliver nothing new.
Not surprisingly for a film with the tagline “About Women, For Women” there are few male roles, although Pascal Elbé turns in a nice cameo as a super sexy lawyer who falls for his beautiful colleague Agathe (Laetitia Casta). Surprisingly, Casta reveals untapped comic potential by providing one of the film’s funniest moments set during a romantic dinner in a chic restaurant. Meanwhile, Isabelle Adjani as Lili is on autopilot in a role which leads nowhere while Dana herself plays the vampish, foul-mouthed Jo.
Undoubtedly, there is room in the French cinematic lexicon for a humorous film that portrays women warts and all. And plenty of home-grown female directors to take up the challenge. A hit at the box-office for Sous Les Jupes des Filles could encourage more of them to pick up the gauntlet.
DIRECTOR’S BIO – AUDREY DANA