(director/writer: François Ozon; screenwriter: based on the play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy; cinematographer: Yorick Le Saux; editor: Laure Gardette; music: Philippe Rombi; cast: Catherine Deneuve (Suzanne Pujol), Gérard Depardieu (Babin), Fabrice Luchini (Robert Pujol), Karin Viard (Nadège), Judith Godrèche (Joëlle), Jérémie Renier (Laurent), Sergi Lopez (Truck driver); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Eric and Nicolas Altmayer; Music Box Films; 2010-France-in French with English subtitles)

A fluffy, cutesy and twisty Hollywood-like sitcom about the fairer sex and their fight for empowerment.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fluffy, cutesy and twisty Hollywood-like sitcom about the fairer sex and their fight for empowerment that’s directed and written by French filmmaker François Ozon (“Sitcom”/”Criminal Lovers”/”Under the Sand”), who keeps it without a cutting edge as an arch, cloying and pro-feminist farce that has few genuine laughs and no impact politically. This is strictly one for Catherine Deneuve fans (those fondly recalling her in the sublime musical-comedy of Demy’s 1964 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), who perhaps overlook the film’s weaknesses because they could care less that its politics and its domestic situation are covered in such a vacuous manner.It’s based on the popular comical play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy, and is set in 1977 in the provincial French town of Sainte-Gudule, in Northern France.

Robert Pujol (Fabrice Luchini) is the wealthy, adulterous and tyrannical owner of an umbrella factory, who treats his submissive and loyal wife Suzanne (Catherine Deneuve) as a trophy wife.He runs her father’s umbrella factory in a profitable but harsh way (unlike her father, who is remembered with fondness as a benevolent paternalistic boss of a bygone era). Wifey lives a bourgeois life of creature comforts as a housewife with servants, who reads poetry, blows kisses at birds and jogs.During a worker’s strike, it takes the portly Communist mayor and MP, Maurice Babin (Gérard Depardieu), Suzanne’s former lover, to get hubby released from being a hostage to the angry workers. When hubby suffers from a weak heart, Suzanne takes his place to negotiate with the workers. She calms the flames and gets a settlement, and brings her closeted artistic son Laurent (Jérémie Renier) into the business. He designs a successful line of rainbow colored umbrellas. Suzanne also brings her married conservative daughter Joëlle (Judith Godrèche) into the business, who is trying to get her absentee businessman husband to stop traveling and spend more time with her and their two boys. Realizing that hubby’s loyal secretary Nadège (Karin Viard) is his mistress, Suzanne befriends her and wins her over to her side. After many plot twists between the battling spouses for control of the factory, we have in the climax the film’s highlight of a charming Deneuve singing about “how beautiful life is.”

This frothy social satire might be appealing enough for some as an uplifting crowd pleaser because of nostalgia for movie icons Deneuve and Depardieu. Yet its inability to frame its story in anything but such an artificial manner (it borrows from bad television sitcom programs and disposable mainstream sitcom films), makes it insignificant–another step downhill for Ozon.