sat 20/04/2024

The Innocent review - muddled French crime comedy | reviews, news & interviews

The Innocent review - muddled French crime comedy

The Innocent review - muddled French crime comedy

Tale of a caviar heist needs more than likable performances

The world is their oyster: Anouk Grinberg, Roschdy Zem, and Louis Garrel in 'The Innocent'MetFilm

Thespians and thieves have often pooled their resources in movies, notably in the work of Woody Allen. Since acting is basically a form of lying, goes the joke, actors dine at the same Runyon-esque table as people who nick stuff, and this French comedy offers a new story of a crim who needs some muscle from the theatrical arts.

Sylvie (Anouk Grinberg) is an actor at a time of life when she wants to quit the stage and settle down with a charming, burly convict called Michel (Roschdy Zem), whom she met when giving an acting class at the local Lyon slammer. She dotes on him to the point of marrying him in jail and setting up a flower shop with him on his release – but not to the point of letting him go back to his bent old ways, which would be a deal-breaker for her.

Predictably, though, Michel is soon consulting cauliflower-faced associates who might just know of some pricey Iranian caviar that might just be loose at the back of a truck.

Grinberg and Zem make an utterly engaging duo and you expect the film to be built around their fragile mutual devotion. The bubbly, half-litre-sized Grinberg – in the sort of role that Barbara Windsor took in real life – has an enigmatic face that always seems to be playing the opposite of what she’s feeling, both adoring and quick not to forgive.The InnocentYet a decision is made to broaden the film’s demographic by way of two younger characters – Sylvie’s grouchy son Abel (Louis Garrel) and his somewhat wacky “best friend” Clémence, played by Noémie Merlant. (Garrel was in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women; Merlant was in Portrait of a Lady on Fire and played Cate Blanchett’s put-upon assistant in Tár.) (Pictured above: Garrel and Merlant)

It’s these two, plus Zem, who do the heavy plot lifting at the heart of The Innocent. For reasons that don’t make complete sense, the gormless youngsters are drawn into Michel's caviar caper, for which he – the old lag with the acting skills – has to tutor them in treading the boards to create a diversion during a heist.

All four of the leads are top performers in prime form, yet it’s a shame Grinberg’s moralistic mum has to be sidelined from the knavery. She doesn’t go without a fight though, notably in a scene when she furiously yanks her annoying son back and forth by the hair like she’s sifting flour.

Garrel also has directing and co-writing duties on the film. It’s his fourth feature at the helm and this is a handsome package with slicing dialogue and a Scorsesean camera in fizzy, beautifully played dialogue scenes. But the action sequences are few and a bit muddled, and the dividing of our attention between the two couples means there’s no central comedy engine to create especially funny set-pieces.

The film manages to be stylish and sluggish, snappy and choppy all at once. To fall in love you have to be a good actor, it  seems to be telling us, yet you also have to steal hearts and this is a movie that doesn’t quite pull that scam off.

The film manages to be stylish and sluggish, snappy and choppy all at once

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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