Review: Marguerite

I think it is everyone's fear to realize that they are Marguerite.

The title character of French director Xavier Giannolli's newest film, this abundantly affluent housewife (Catherine Frot) has decided to pursue her passion with a career as an opera singer... and no one is willing to tell her she's terrible. "No one" includes her husband, Georges Dumont (André Marcon), who spends the majority of his time pretending his car has broken down just so he doesn't have to deal with her -- and the rest of his time he spends with his mistress.

But Marguerite's "fans" are increasingly loyal: her butler, Madelbos (Denis Mpunga), photographs her in the operatic memorabilia that she collects, steadfast at her side throughout her in-house concerts (sponsored by the Amadeus club, a local music club that had the misfortune of agreeing to let her sing). Her friends' loyalty is understandable: Marguerite immediately wins you over with her bright eyes and nervous air, though at times her face betrays a hint of disbelief of her acquaintances' support.

But the question is why they unabashedly support her. Why does everyone keep Marguerite's worst secret from her? Enter Lucien (Sylvain Dieuaide), a critic for a local paper, and Kyrill (Aubert Fenoy), an anarchist artist, who can't get enough of the bittersweet peculiarity of Marguerite's situation. Lucienne has motives to impress Hazel (Christa Théret), a young opera singer with actual talent, and Kyrill has designs to make Marguerite a part of his bizarre art; together, the two of them strive to pursue their own two-faced form of entertainment, dangerously veering Marguerite towards the earsplitting truth.

Intermittently laden with the calls of Dumonts' pet peacock, the film strikes a delicate balance between comedic perfection and the tenderhooks of Marguerite's delusion; it is a hilarious, yet simultaneously heartbreaking tale of a woman trying to hold onto her life as it actively slips away from her. The characters that Giannolli and writer Marcia Romano present are vibrant -- including Pezzini (Michel Fau), the fading opera singer who unwillingly agrees to train Marguerite -- and the performances are compelling, brazenly characterizing the cruel intentions of the upper class.

The only slight negative to this film is the abrupt ending -- though poetic, still abrupt (much like this review) -- but the rest of the film's pros far outweigh the cons. MARGUERITE is now playing at the Midtown Cinema, for just this one week! Come see it before it disappears!

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