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Housekeeper, The
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by Chris Parry

"A more modern, less icky version of Lolita. Kind of."
4 stars

When you see the name Claude Berri attached to a French film, the general rule is you should rent, buy or watch the movie in question. He does good stuff, with Germinal and Jean de Florette being highlights that any director would be proud of. In this outing, Berri tackles a subject that other directors have fallen over - the young sexual creature and the older man who falls for her - in a way that few have tried in the past. The Housekeeper continually has you expecting things to take a turn for the predictable worst, but Berri manages to keep the tables turned on his female lead and his audience, turning a fairly flimsy storyline into an enjoyable film in the process.

Jacques (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is a recording studio executive who just broke up with his wife. A little pissed off at the world, he descends into depression and lets the apartment get a little messy, which in turn sees him call for professional help. The girl who arrives, Laura (Emilie Dequenne), is hardly a pro, but if there's a cuter 18-year-old French girl in existence, I'll eat a garlic snail sandwich.

And of course, Jacques agrees with me. Despite playing up the 'you're getting in my way' routine, it's clear that Jacques digs his new femme de menage, and when she tells him that she's been kicked out of her house and has nowhere to go, he's soon sleeping on the couch. At this point, if you can't tell that she'll be staying far longer than the agreed upon two days, you're spending too much time looking at the bottom of your popcorn bag.

What you don't see coming is Berri's twist in the classic Lolita tale, where the young vamp falls for the older man who seems to realize nothing good will come out of the situation. When she shows up at the end of his bed... uh, couch... one night and kisses him, he responds in a way that almost says "well okay then, we'll screw, but if you think I'm getting my hopes up for another in the morning, you're dreaming."

Both Bacri and Dequenne are the strongest selling points of this film, and both do an outstanding job in their roles. Berri, to his credit, teases far more mileage out of the story than it really deserves to enjoy, hiding the fact that there's really only 30 minutes of material by giving us plenty to look at, lots of characterization and the occasional scene of rumpy-pumpy.

The Housekeeper is an odd film. You know where it's going from the end of the first act, but how it gets there and perhaps the inevitability of it all is the primary purpose of the journey. Never cliche, even when you're certain it will be, The Housekeeper is a film that deserves your attention - and your ticket price.

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originally posted: 06/05/03 19:56:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/29/03 Charna Great 4 stars
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  11-Jul-2003 (NR)



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