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Promised Life
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by Greg Muskewitz

"When isn't Huppert in top form?"
4 stars

Isabelle Huppert is a weathered hooker who must go on the lam with her illegitimate and unwanted teenage daughter, who in turn unintentionally killed her mother’s pimp.

Without much of a plan, they escape Nice to the French countryside to seek out an old lover of Huppert’s, whom she had a younger son with. Their turbulent relationship is further strained when they are separated while thumbing for rides, and both wind up receiving help from a mystèriuex Pascal Greggory in separate instances. Of course, their split gives drive to the development of the characters, particularly Huppert’s prostitute, whose shady past includes why she abandoned her lover, her teen daughter, and time she spent in a psychiatric hospital. Eventually, as the fork in the road brings the two divergent paths back together, with the addition of Greggory sticking around, the emphasis on the daughter is prematurely phased out, but it still remains a compelling portrait of various strings and levels of destitution. As to make clear the distinction between street life in Nice, and the placid countryside, director Olivier Dahan (also one of the camera operators) calms down with the agitated cinematography early on to complement his characters. But throughout, it’s clear that this is less about aesthetics than it is behind the psychology of serial desertion. Not until the forsaker has become the forsaken will there be any forward movement or actions taken responsibility for. (The habit is similar to drug use, which is also something touched upon here, albeit superficially.) And it benefits as well from avoiding the attempt of a full explanation and disclosure that lead to those actions. Huppert remains, as always, a formidable presence who can aptly be human and fallible in an unlikable role. She is, when given the chance, matched in naturalness by Maud Forget, who foregoes the need to act up to Huppert’s stature.


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originally posted: 02/03/04 08:02:23
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User Comments

2/27/05 dwatts Somewhat overwrought screenplay and directing, but Huppert is superb (as usual)! 4 stars
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  10-Apr-2003 (NR)



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