Review: ‘Me And My Sister’

A classy cast, topped by Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Frot, bring an effortless sense of style to a by-the-numbers yarn in "Me and My Sister." World-preemed at the Thessaloniki festival as part of a Huppert tribute, film sashays into Gallic salles Dec. 22, where its welcome should be warm.

A classy cast, topped by Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Frot, bring an effortless sense of style to a by-the-numbers yarn in “Me and My Sister.” Light comedy-drama about a bourgeois Parisienne embarrassed by a visit from her ditzy sis from the sticks avoids both knockabout humor and over-heavy bathos for 90 minutes of easy, thesp-driven entertainment. World-preemed at the Thessaloniki festival as part of a Huppert tribute, film sashays into Gallic salles Dec. 22, where its welcome should be warm. Offshore, this could work with upscale aficionados of poised French fare.

Lovable, Teflon-coated Louise (Frot) arrives from Le Mans to spend a weekend with elder sister Martine (Huppert), an uptight control freak who’s married into comfy, upper-middle-class society via husband Pierre (Francois Berleand), whom she now sexually despises. A beautician, Louise has aspirations to become a writer and has an appointment on Monday with a publisher to whom she’s sent the manuscript of a novel.

Early scenes, of the elegant Martine mightily embarrassed in front of her friends by Louise’s provincial openness, set the tone, which is restrained rather than goofy and punctuated by Martine’s occasional exasperated outbursts. Latter has done her best to wipe out her past as a chubby kid from a working-class background and daughter of an alcoholic mother she’d rather forget.

Though physically Huppert and Frot are scarcely believable as sisters, the skilled actresses create sufficient chemistry that it hardly matters. They’re surrounded by a seasoned cast — including the imposing Brigitte Catillon as Martine’s waspish, sex-obsessed friend, Sophie — who blend seamlessly together.

Just when the sisters seem to have re-bonded, in a delightful scene where they sing along to the twins’ song from “The Young Girls of Rochefort,” script pulls a major switcharoo. At a dinner party hosted by Martine that looks all set to be a social catastrophe, Louise wins over Pierre, Sophie and Sophie’s husband Richard (Michel Vuillermoz) with a touching display of emotional frankness. Next day, both sisters face their differing futures.

Though Frot invests Sophie with as much nuance as the script allows, it’s still Huppert’s movie. The seemingly ageless thesp, playing much younger than her 51 years, doesn’t even break sweat in the role of the jealous Martine, whether getting gloriously sloshed after Sophie’s tour de force or venting her spleen on the bear-like Pierre. First-time writer-director Alexandra Leclere provides plenty of verbal squibs in the script, but it’s Huppert’s perf that keeps the pic’s tone on course.

Tech package is smooth, and Philippe Sarde’s late-entering score provides an emotional assist at just the right point.

Me And My Sister

France

Production

A Pan Europeenne Distribution release of a Pan Europeenne Prod., StudioCanal, France 2 Cinema production, with participation of Canal Plus, CineCinema. (International sales: StudioCanal, Paris.) Produced by Philippe Godeau. Directed, written by Alexandra Leclere.

Crew

Camera (color), Michel Amathieu; editors, Herve de Luze, Jacqueline Mariani; music, Philippe Sarde; art director, Carlos Conti; costume designer, Esther Walz; sound (Dolby Digital), Jean Umansky, Raphael Sohier, Jean-Paul Hurier; assistant director, Thierry Verrier; casting, Francoise Menidrey. Reviewed at Thessaloniki Film Festival (Tribute to Isabelle Huppert), Nov. 27, 2004. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Isabelle Huppert, Catherine Frot, Francois Berleand, Brigitte Catillon, Michel Vuillermoz, Christiane Millet, Rose Thiery, Bruno Chiche, Jean-Philippe Puymartin.
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