Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
Original Title: La Daronne
Alternate Title: The Godmother
France/Belgium, 2020. Les Films du Lendemain, La Boétie Films, Le Pacte, Scope Pictures, Franklin Films, Les Films de la Greluche, Restons Groupés Production, Les Films du Camélia, Canal+, OCS, Cofimage 30, Cinéventure 4, Région Île-de-France, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee. Screenplay by Jean-Paul Salome, Hannelore Cayre, in collaboration with Antoine Salome, based on the novel by Hannelore Cayre. Cinematography by Julien Hirsch. Produced by Jean-Baptiste Dupont, Kristina Larsen. Music by Bruno Coulais. Production Design by Francoise Dupertuis. Film Editing by Valerie Deseine.
Isabelle Huppert plays a woman who uses her Arabic language skills to help the police as a translator, taking part in their operation to go after a Moroccan drug ring who is supplying hash in the city of Paris. She accompanies the cops on arrests, then goes home and watches video surveillance footage and writing their contents up in French. She’s having trouble keeping up with the rent and is spending a fortune keeping her increasingly senile mother (Liliane Rovère) in a comfortable nursing home, but she sees an opportunity to get ahead when it turns out that the nurse who looks after mother is connected with the men she is helping the police track. Stepping in just as a large shipment of drugs crosses into the country, Huppert helps her new friends evade the cops and takes over the goods for herself, solving her financial woes by becoming a dealer in the city. At work, she continues to show up but now is watching videos of herself in disguise, providing translations while hoping to throw her amorous supervisor (Hippolyte Girardot) off her scent. This stylish caper begins with great energy, delighting us with the lengths to which this woman will go to get what she wants, but as we move towards the climax, the script gets indecisive about whether it wants to be frothy or poignant. There are characters (like her street dealers) who are there for light comedy and succeed at it, but there are great lengths at character backstory with her mother that never quite land, that whole section of the plot feeling more like it’s there to justify its existence as merely a part of the machinery. Huppert’s developing a relationship with her inscrutable building superintendent is mostly superficial as well, while all mentions of her childhood stories feel phoned in. In short, it’s a soulless enterprise if an amusing one, playing like Elle For Dummies, but the star brings her luminous sense of caprice to the experience and makes it worthwhile for her fans.