A half-baked, fundamentally ludicrous tale of usurped identity set in the sleazy fast lane of the Paris-based music biz, ultra-trashy "Pretty Things" is rescued and partially redeemed by a bang-up perf by Marion Cotillard as twin sisters with twisted emotional agendas.

A half-baked, fundamentally ludicrous tale of usurped identity set in the sleazy fast lane of the Paris-based music biz, ultra-trashy “Pretty Things” is rescued and partially redeemed by a bang-up perf by Marion Cotillard as twin sisters with twisted emotional agendas. Second pic (after “Baise-moi”) to be adapted from a novel by Virginie Despentes pegs the writer as one of Gaul’s leading sources of inspiration for specious, raggedly made but exportable films. Winner of the Deauville fest’s Prix Michel D’Ornano (to encourage French screenwriters), it opens commercially in mid-November.

Pulpy, pouty Lucie (Cotillard) leaves her small town to carve out a showbiz career in the big city. She knows her skintight clothes make her look like a cheap hooker, just as surely as she knows the bimbo look gets results. Amenable to sleeping around — plus, taking part in backroom orgies and on lesbian-themed porn tapes — she forms a platonic friendship with Nicolas (Stomy Bugsy), a struggling, good-hearted composer.

Lucie has an identical twin sister, Marie (also Cotillard), who played perfect student and dutiful daughter to Lucie’s nascent slut. Lucie yearns for stardom but can’t sing a note, whereas Marie (and Cotillard, who does her own vocals) has a lovely set of pipes. The plan is for bookish Marie to do the actual singing while Lucie gets the adulation she craves — a ruse that almost makes sense in France, where auds accept shameless lip-synching at live concerts.

Marie wows the audience at her first performance of Nicolas’ songs but, when the two return to Lucie’s apartment, they find she has killed herself by jumping out the window. Clicking into instant Evil Twin mode, Marie tells police she is Lucie and the dead ringer on the pavement is the sister she rarely saw. Nicolas reluctantly plays along.

Although the real Lucie was a joyously dopey good-time girl, Marie-as-Lucie secures a recording contract with big-time producer Jacques (Patrick Bruel) by being sulky and rude. Forever denigrating her legions of fans, the rebellious new media darling is cocaine-addled and miserable when a few of the real Lucie’s most sordid exploits surface to jeopardize her success. Bummer.

While never boring, the pic, divided into four seasons starting with “Spring,” is lamentably hackneyed and plagued by scattershot lensing from musicvideo hell. First-time helmer Gilles Paquet-Brenner has retained Despentes’ pithy, authoritative screeds about the objectification of women in the form of voiceovers recited by the sisters. Bugsy and Bruel — both popular recording artists — are very good.

Pretty Things

France

Production

A Hugo Films, M6 Films, CAPAC production. (International sales: M6, Paris.) Produced by Stephane Marsil. Directed, written by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, based on the novel by Virginie Despentes.

Crew

Camera (color), Pascal Ridao; editor, Bertrand Collard; music, David Moreau; art director, Francoise Dupertuis; costume designer, Corinne Le Flem; sound (Dolby), Antoine Deflandre, Laurent Chassiagne; assistant director, Alain Braconnier; casting, Gigi Akoka. Reviewed at Cercle Foch screening room, Paris, June 23, 2001. (In Deauville Festival of American Cinema -- special presentation.) Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Marion Cotillard, Stomy Bugsy, Patrick Bruel, Titoff, Ophelie Winter.
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