Le Beau Monde, Julie Lopes-Curval’s fourth outing as director, is a dreary coming-of-age film which casts the net wide in a bid to cover several issues only to fall on well-trodden ground. Her first film, Bords de Mer (Seaside) won the Golden Camera award at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival and her last film Mères et Filles starring Catherine Denevue was nominated for best Feature at the 2009 Chicago Film Festival. But despite strong lead performances from Ana Giradot and Bastien Bouillon, Le Beau Monde cannot rise above its humdrum storyline and stilted dialogue.
Giradot is Alice, a young woman living in Bayeux, who recycles old sweaters to create her own clothes and dreams of studying fashion at a school in Paris. A chance meeting with a rich Parisian woman, Agnès (Aurélia Petit,) turns her dream into reality and she drops everything to move to the capital. Agnès’ son Antoine (Bouillon) is also a student in the city and the two soon meet and fall passionately in love. Alice is fascinated by the high-brow, intellectual world Antoine has rejected to pursue his ambition of becoming a photographer while Antoine is drawn to Alice’s working class roots as subject matter for his photos. Will their passion overcome this clash of backgrounds?
The cinema is no stranger to films about working class woman who are transformed through a relationship with a man into a whole new person (think George Cukor’s My Fair Lady, Lewis Gilbert’s Educating Rita, or even Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman). Here Lopes-Curval throws into the mix Alice’s awakening as an artist, a rejection of her modest background, Antoine’s rebellion against his own privileged background and the transitory nature of first love. That’s a lot to explore and Lopes-Curval skirts lightly over some issues at the risk of appearing flippant. Alice’s struggle to express herself through her chosen artistic medium – embroidery – is given scant attention while her naive, adoring love for Antoine takes centre stage. The same is true for Antoine’s creative development as a photographer. It’s never clear whether the director is taking him seriously as an artist or poking fun at his pretentious ambitions and bohemian friends.
Fortunately Le Beau Monde is rescued by the love affair between Alice and Antoine which balances on the fine line between adolescent infatuation and adult responsibility. But even here, the script seems underdeveloped and sparse.
DIRECTOR’S BIO – JULIE LOPES-CURVAL