leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnes Jaoui won a best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival for this pitch-black comedy of contemporary manners about the neglected daughter of a colossally selfish writer and publisher. Plump, 20-year-old Lolita Cassard (Marilou Berry, daughter of French actress and filmmaker Josiane Balasko) wants to be a classical singer, but not as much as she wants her father, celebrity writer Etienne Cassard (Bacri), to acknowledge her existence. Etienne is, however, far too wrapped up in his own concerns his much younger new wife, Karine (Virginie Desarnauts), and their little girl, his publishing company's upcoming merger with a larger firm, the new novel he's not writing to spare a minute for his angry, ungainly "big girl." Convinced that the only reason anyone wants to know her is because her father is famous, she shifts her devotion to her singing coach, Sylvia Millet (Jaoui). The fundamentally decent Sylvia's husband, Pierre (Laurent Grevill), is a minor novelist in a deep funk because he's convinced his new book, "Comme une Image," is destined for failure. Thus Sylvia looks at Lolita differently when she realizes how much Etienne could help Pierre. Lolita turns a blind eye to Sylvia's subtle shift in attitude and immerses herself in rehearsals for an amateur choral recital at an old church near the Cassard country home. Etienne does take Pierre under his wing and helps establish him as a hot new light on the literary scene. As insecure Lolita rejects her stepmother's attempts at friendship and sends mixed messages to Sebastien (Keine Bouhiza), who sincerely likes her, Sylvie and Pierre spend more time with Etienne, oblivious to the fact that under his influence they're divesting themselves of their old friends. Sylvia picks a petty but hurtful fight with Pierre's longtime agent, Edith (Michele Moretti), while Pierre blows off the forward he promised to write for photographer Felix's (Serge Riaboukine) upcoming book. The multitalented Jaoui and Bacri excel on every level; her direction is efficient and unobtrusive, their script dissects the nuances of corruption by celebrity with a razor-sharp scalpel, and they deliver a pair of subtly unsparing performances. Bacri, in particular, makes Etienne a multifaceted character without ever losing sight of the fact that he's a genuine monster who thinks he can avoid responsibility for the pain inflicted by his cutting remarks and unpredictable rages by saying he was just joking.