Michèle Laroque is one of France’s most talented and durable comic actors both on stage and screen. For her first time behind the camera with Brillantissime, she has adapted an English play by Geraldine Aron, My Brilliant Divorce, in which she has already appeared on the French stage. It’s a role tailor-made for Laroque who does a nice line in upbeat, humorous sympathetic characters. But perhaps over familiarity with the material has left little room for innovation or creativity. She is Angela, a middle-aged woman who finds herself abandoned by her husband and daughter on Christmas Eve and becomes newly single at a time when most people are looking to slide comfortably into old age surrounded by their loved ones. There is a rich comic seam to be mined but Laroque plays it wide of the mark. She draughts in a strong cast of comic actors both seasoned (Gèrard Darmon, Kad Merad, Rossy de Palma, Michael Youn) and newcomers (Philippe Lacheau), but it is all unbearably flat and dull. And for a comedy, it desperately lacks pace and originality.
When Angela finds herself alone with her dog on Christmas Eve, she takes stock of a life dedicated to husband and family with no time to discover who she is. Friendship with a local market-stall owner (Darmon) and the support of her best friend (de Palma) allow her to pick a way through her depression to find a new reason to be alive.
Many a great film is based on the loneliness of the single woman ( Bridget Jones’s Diary) first springs to mind). But it’s important to avoid seeing the state of being a singleton as an illness with a new man as the only cure. At her best, Laroque can outshine everyone else on the screen, but even her outsized comic talent cannot save this underdeveloped film with a tired script and wooden characters from disappearing into total oblivion.