A femme fatale initiates her granddaughter into the fine art of serial widowhood in “The Very Merry Widows.” Jauntily amoral black comedy reps a distinct improvement over Catherine Corsini’s Sapphic stalker drama “Replay” (Cannes 2001), and Jane Birkin is entertaining as the heartlessly efficient murderess who’s tracked down by her only living relative, orphaned Emilie Dequenne. Pic isn’t terribly plausible and motivations are thin-to-convenient but there’s a breezy quality to the marriages and murders, thanks to game thesping, a nifty score by Krishna Levy and enticing locations from Cannes to Mauritius. Middle-of-the-road romp has already been sold to several European territories.
Renee (Birkin) is an expert at wedding and rapidly surviving old rich guys. Insurance investigator Thomas (Jeremie Elkaim) has come to settle Renee’s latest claim when he observes 20-year-old Laurence (Dequenne) arriving to surprise the grandma she hasn’t seen for 16 years. Renee is hardly a positive role model, but she’s soon giving unsophisticated Laurence a “Pretty Woman” makeover and tutoring her in the art of snaring wealthy men.
Laurence’s weak spot is a tendency to fall for every guy she meets. Laurence and Thomas are obviously suited to each other, but first Thomas endures a strained S&M encounter with a co-worker (Amira Casar) and Laurence goes through a distraught widower (Laurent Grevill) and a beefy village tycoon (Clovis Cornillac, very good). Renee’s M.O. is challenged when she finds herself genuinely falling for spry bon vivant Maurice (Pierre Richard).
Plotting is expedient, dialogue caustic, behavior quasi-madcap and unkind. Local crix found venture lame and distasteful — positing that if you can’t make a great dark laffer you shouldn’t even try — but undemanding auds seem to be enjoying themselves throughout this guilty pleasure.