Thelma, Louise And Chantal

Thelma, Louise And Chantal

***

Reviewed by: James Benefield

This is the movie Sex And The City (and its sequel) should have been. Although far from perfect, it's a soulful and honest depiction of three women of a certain age.

But at the beginning of the movie, all are unhappy. Gabrielle (Caroline Cellier) looks gorgeous as a 40-something spurned by her recent boyfriend. She comes home one day to find him gone, with only a curt, spiteful message of goodbye written above the fireplace in two foot high letters. Nelly (Jane Birkin) is a divorced teacher, looking to get her self-confidence back. Completing the trio, Chantal (Catherine Jacob) is grieving. On the surface, it's because her pet dog is dead. But it's been dead years; she's really entering a depression helped on by a distant teenage child and an unhappy marriage.

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All three have been invited to the wedding of one of Gabrielle's exes, Phillipe. The film documents their rather eventful journey to the ceremony. It's all laced with reference to the Ridley Scott's original Thelma And Louise (from the hunky mechanic to a finale involving a large cliff). And it's all great fun.

The main joy is in the performances. Jane Birkin is particularly good. Her journey from a teacher victimised by her pupils, to a self-confident survivor is pitch-perfect. Playing the heart strings like a Grammy award winner, Catherine Jacob breaks your heart as Chantal. The weakest link is possibly Gabrielle. Although it's nothing to do with actress Caroline Cellier, the character feels too much like a Samantha from Sex And The City to be totally convincing. She's a man-eater with ambition; she's supposed to represent a strong character, but she too frequently becomes the butt of easy laughs (look at Gaby sleep with another man! What an independent, but minxy lady! etc).

It's a problem the film does occasionally fall into. Although it has all the best intentions, many of the movie's aspects can hardly be described as original. Chantal meets a gay guy who understands her more than nobody else. And, newsflash, women over 40 can be sexy. No, really? By co-opting into the Thelma And Louise story, writer/director Petre tries to pass this all off as knowing and ironic. However, if you look too hard, it just seems lazy.

That said, there's a lot of love here. It's all presented with such enthusiasm, wit and fun that any real criticism feels a little churlish. In the final reel, Jane Birkin dances in front of the mirror in just her - rather sexy - underwear. The look on her face says it all. Despite its flaws, this is one of the most joyous screen celebrations of femininity in years.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2010
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Thelma, Louise And Chantal packshot
Three women discover shared passions and form a powerful bond as they go on a road trip together to an ex-boyfriend's wedding.
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Director: Benoît Pétré

Writer: Benoît Pétré

Starring: Jane Birkin, Caroline Cellier, Catherine Jacob, Thierry Lhermitte

Year: 2010

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: France

Festivals:

EIFF 2010

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