A French Gigolo

A French Gigolo


Reviewed by: James Benefield

Forget Richard Gere in American Gigolo, there is a new male ‘escort’ on the silver screen. His name is Marco, and he’s played by Eric Caravaca.

Unlike Gere in AG, Marco only moonlights as an escort. By day, he’s working as a handyman and being a devoted husband to his wife Fanny (Isabelle Carre), a budding hairdresser. The money he earns through escorting is primarily used to help her start a business. He wants her to be successful. But he’d also like it if they could move out with the cramped flat the couple share with Fanny’s sister and mother.

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However, being a male escort also means meeting lots of women. And due to the intimacy of his business, there is a risk that either party might get too close for comfort. This forms the crux of the story. His client's name is Judith (Nathalie Baye). Judith also leads some kind of double life; during the day she is a successful TV personality, yet during the evening she is a wealthy, but lonely, lady of a certain age, living with her sister. Since her divorce, she tends to use the internet to meet men, but hasn’t found anyone that interests her long term. This is until, of course, she meets Marco.

What results is a film that hides much sadness and hurt behind a frothy exterior. The sex is discreet, the comedy is light and inoffensive, and the general tone is upbeat. However, it’s an intelligent choice; it makes the rather painful themes of ageing, poverty and starting over again easier to digest, rather than blunting them. Before an audience realises it, they will be completely absorbed by both characters’ fate, and how their lives intertwine in unexpected, and moving, ways.

Also, it’s always refreshing to see a movie with an older woman, not played by Meryl Streep, as a lead. Baye is radiant as Judith. The strength in her performance is that she doesn’t play the character with any degree of sentimentality. She is written perhaps as a victim, but she is performed as an everyday woman, whose loneliness is another aspect of the many pressures she has to deal with. Her relationship status does not define her. It seems a small point, but it’s the fiftysomething woman we don’t usually see on screen.

There are problems. Voiceover is used too regularly as a device to move on the plot and tell the audience what each character is thinking; we don’t tend to get to know the supporting characters (such as Marco’s wife, and Judith’s sister) well enough to achieve a fully rounded picture of the world which the film's characters inhabit; and the soundtrack can be horribly intrusive and inappropriate at times. It’s an acquired taste too. Proceedings are uniformly restrained, so this isn’t for art house audiences looking for forward-thinking cinema.

However, for a film that is so engaging, likeable and well meaning, this is small fry. This melding of painful subject and mum-friendly storytelling is a surprising winner, and, despite its flaws, it ensures French Gigolo is a low-key gem.

Reviewed on: 20 Nov 2009
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A fiftysomething woman who hires a gigolo finds their relationship becomes unexpectedly complex.
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Director: Josiane Balasko

Writer: Josiane Balasko, Josiane Balasko

Starring: Nathalie Baye, Eric Caravaca, Isabelle Carré, Josiane Balasko, Catherine Hiegel, Marilou Berry, Félicité Wouassi, George Aguilar, Sandrine Le Berre, David Rousseau

Year: 2008

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: France

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