In Bed With Victoria


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

Justine Triet’s In Bed With Victoria featuring Virginie Efira
"I like that this film includes a good deal of interesting, amusing gender role reversal" | Photo: Indie Sales

No two ways about it, Victoria is a fuck-up. In every sense of the word. From the opening scene in which Victoria (Belgian actress, Virginie Efira), on her shrink’s couch, confesses to being unfaithful. Because yes, she is seeing other therapists, including an acupuncturist and a psychic. To the next, where the nice young man who minds her children walks out because he feels unloved and underpaid.

In between times, as will become obvious, she is assiduous user of her local dating app, bringing a variety of unlikely and unsuitable men back home to her apartment each night for unsatisfying, disconnected sex. Did I mention that life for this intelligent, witty, attractive, elegant young criminal lawyer is something of a disaster zone?

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That, then, is the set-up for In Bed With Victoria (titled simply Victoria in France). But, this being rom com, we know that all is about to change. The catalyst is a friend's wedding, or rather, the after-party/reception at which she runs into Sam (Vincent Lacoste), a former drug dealer who she previously defended, as well as odd couple Vincent (Melvil Poupaud), and Eve (Alice Daquet).

By now you might have noticed that this is a film tinged with strangeness – kookiness, perhaps – and from here on in, it only gets stranger.

Sam, who appears to have adopted the persona of a sad-eyed puppy for purposes of meeting Victoria, offers himself pretty much body and soul. After his earlier unfortunate career choice, he is now looking to better himself. If that means coming and working for Victoria for no money, sleeping on her couch (no sex) and looking after her kids, he is well up for it!

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the party, Victoria is dragged into the tempestuous relationship, or just general bad behaviour of Vincent and Eve. They are, it quickly becomes clear, one of those couples who alternate cloying can’t-get-enough-of-one-another obsessive “love” with a series of mind games in which Eve accuses Vincent of every bad behaviour under the sun….and Vincent just keeps coming back for more.

In this case, it appears, following a row, Vincent lost his temper, violently removed Eve’s knickers – and stabbed her with a knife. Or did he? He claims not because…well, he is just a pathetic excuse for a man and as far as he is concerned, Eve wears the trousers in their relationship. His version of events? Eve did it to herself and, implausible as this might sound, there is enough doubt raised to leave the audience wondering.

Into this maelstrom of bad-tempered bickering, Victoria is dragged, against her better judgement, by Vincent’s grovelling appeal to past friendship. You just know that this is a bad idea.

Throw in a vengeful ex-husband who is rapidly making a career for himself as a professional blogger writing a thinly veiled confessional about life with Victoria and the stage is set for an exercise in carefully controlled chaos, including a trial at which Eve’s dog and a selfie-snapping chimpanzee are called as witnesses. Also, obviously, a will-they-won’t-they burgeoning relationship between Sam and Victoria.

Oh come on! It’s a rom com: what do YOU think happens?

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. And that is despite the comparison – in my opinion, misplaced - by several online critics with Woody Allen. The dialogue, by writer-director Justine Triet, who also wrote and directed Age of Panic (La Bataille de Solférino), which won the audience prize at the Paris Cinema International Film Festival in July 2013, is sharp, witty and never quite goes where you expect it to.

I especially enjoyed the master class in narcissism provided by the various men coming through Victoria’s apartment. Like the young Adonis who, deadpan, explains, “I love my body more than most: I work on it daily. I set aflame any woman lucky enough to be with me”.

I like that this film includes a good deal of interesting, amusing gender role reversal, not just in Victoria’s relationship with Sam, or the way in which she deals with sex, but throughout. I liked the unexpected, slightly off one-liners. In court, for instance: “May I approach the dog”.

I like that Triet is not afraid to insert the odd visual gag, ranging from a dead rabbit, acquired by Victoria to keep her children happy and, two minutes later, on its way out with the rest of the trash, to the casual hook-up who seems more interested in pocketing a spare pair of Victoria’s knickers than in her.

And I enjoyed the slightly under-stated choice of music, including Nillsson’s lesser known Without Her - one of those tracks that, I confess, I had quite forgotten and which nonetheless provides touching, gentle leitmotif to Sam and Victoria’s growing closeness.

A good film.

Reviewed on: 20 Apr 2020
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In Bed With Victoria packshot
Comedy about a single mum trying to strike a balance in her life.

Director: Justine Triet

Writer: Justine Triet

Starring: Laure Calamy, Virginie Efira, Vincent Lacoste, Emmanuelle Lanfray, Laurent Poitrenaux, Melvil Poupaud

Year: 2016

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: France

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