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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.39%
Worth A Look52.17%
Average: 26.09%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 4.35%

2 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Read My Lips
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by Thom

"Revenge is a dish best served cold"
3 stars

“Read My Lips is a love story,” says director Audiard. Actually, he said, “Sur Mes Levres est une histoire d’amour.” Because Audiard is French and like all the French he can speak passable English but chooses not to. The fucker. Audiard is known as a bad boy director for his take no prisoners style. Naturally, you have to say that a film is an extension of the director and in that case, if I had to make a broad, unfair, comparison, I’d say that Audiard is the French Guy Ritchie, except I’d have to say that Guy Ritchie is the English Audiard because Audiard is older.

You’ve got nightclubs, guns, techno music, mafioso, petty office politics and a deaf woman. Read My Lips is the kind of a movie you could peg as a “taut thriller” but this one has soft edges. It doesn’t go for a tattoo of uppercuts. Which is what Ritchie would do and you know, the English do that sort of thing very well. In fact, I’m becoming rather fond of that super sexy ultra stylish violent thug flick that keeps floating out of the Enchanted Isles. It’s so Hollywood.

The French, you know, aren’t concerned about other countries. So this film is decidedly Parisian, which isn’t actually France. Parisians aren’t concerned about France, the French aren’t concerned about the rest of the world, so there you have it.

Emmanuelle Devos plays Carla, a deaf socially awkward secretary that is so bottom rung, she’s practically invisible. She works hard and could have more of an active role but is consigned to the photocopier. Day in and day out her office workers make fun of her. She knows because she can read lips. Being deaf teaches you a few handy tricks. She just takes it on the chin, buries her resentment and keeps working. Jobs are hard to find in France, and the Government does what they can to place people so if you get a situation, you take it and do what you have to do to keep it. That is why people aren’t hung up on what you do in France because everyone is just dealing with their shit life, but hey, there’s good wine to be had cheap. I’m still talking about Paris, there are hicks in France, I’ve met them. And Retards.

Est-ce que vous etes un retard. No, not RENARD (fox), Retard (which actually means “late” as in , this review is “en retard.” ) Now go visit and tell ‘em Thom sent you.

“Am I late?” they will think to themselves quizzically and that would just be funny. Of course, you’d have to then be the “stupid American” but that just goes without saying. The knowingly stupid fare better. Hence, Jerry Lewis.

Anyway, this movie (am I up to 500 words yet?), is watchable.

Carla gets an ex-con assistant, Paul (Vincent Cassel) and even though he lied through the interview process, Carla takes a liking to him and covers for him and then trains him and then makes excuses for him when he has to take a night job to pay back his former boss, the owner of a nightclub.

Now, the owner of the nightclub is a minor thug. He’s bad, but not shoot you in the face bad. He’s not mafia, just a little protective of his cash. He has a run-in with the REAL mafia later on because he owes them a buttload of money. When they come to collect, its gone missing. All part of a carefully coordinated plan by Carla and Paul to royally screw everyone that fucked them over.

Since this is a love story, ultimately, you never see any romance develop, it is the accidental side effect. What started out as a purely practical arrangement, turns into some kind of affection. They are more like Bonnie and Clyde then Harry and Sally. The point of the story isn’t to bring them together nor is her presence merely a device to move Paul’s story along, which so often happens in male driven action films. Her story is as important as his and they need each other to accomplish their little coup.

Their relationship transforms the both of them, empowering and humanizing them. Carla helps Paul out of sheer sympathy and expects nothing in return. At first, Paul thinks she just wants to get laid and when he tries to force himself on her, she fights him off and lets things return to normal the next day.

Both Cassel and Devos bring two memorable, sympathetic characters to life. For being people in the cracks of life with no station or authority, their fuck shit up potential is mind-boggling. Nevermind the part where she can speak just fine rather then with the inflection of one who has never heard her own voice– roll with it. If it had that much verisimilitude (please forgive me, my non-hearing readers) it would be difficult to watch simply because of the language barrier. And you think its hard enough understanding French when it is spoken normally.

The moments of tension are satisfying, the atypical love story is a nice change, the characters are flawed but those flaws become their strengths in a morally ambiguous world. At nearly two hours, don’t get a large coke because you’ll end up having to pee right when the action really heats up and you won’t want to miss any part of the cascading domino show in the second half when all the loose threads begin to knot and three storylines are messily, bloodily resolved.

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originally posted: 07/31/02 03:46:20
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User Comments

4/09/06 jeanne The parole officer's subplot was jarring, but Devos and Cassel were BRILLIANT! 5 stars
8/12/05 ALDO A movie, not a film. Way to go, French, except the pointless parole officer subplot. 5 stars
6/02/04 Laura Great Movie! 4 stars
7/07/03 Emperor's New Clothes? Nope. Just a Fat, Ugly, Naked, Guy. I don't think I "got" this movie. But the two leads were so incredible, it doesnt matter. 4 stars
4/06/03 John Bale Classy French Thriller thanks to great performance by Devos and clever script 4 stars
9/11/02 Francofile Not "Breathless," but a breath of fresh air for sure. 4 stars
9/05/02 M. Rubinstein a very well done off beat movie that has a great sense of person and place. 4 stars
9/02/02 Julian Gauld This film is superb. Great acting (esp. Devos), script and directing. 5 stars
9/02/02 Frau Zakreys Fantastic movie, you gotta see it 5 stars
8/29/02 Tamara Kiel total crap 1 stars
8/13/02 Butterbean The way these two used each other made this movie stay above the formulaic love story. 4 stars
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  19-Jul-2002 (NR)



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