TV” movie is written all over “French California,” vet scripter Jacques Fieschi’s helming foray, which takes a largely splendid cast and wastes it on sub-Tennessee Williams material. (Story is based on a lesser Georges Simenon novel.) Pseudo-mystery about a neurotic wealthy woman and her entourage on the French Riviera fails to create tension, while uneven conception can’t bridge gaps in characterization. Even Stateside French fests will pass on this Cannes-set Cannes-not.
Middle-aged Maguy (Nathalie Baye) supports a motley assortment of hangers-on in her villa, bored and changeable but fearful of being alone. Serb refugee Mirko (Roschdy Zem, speaking a more than credible Serbian) fulfills her sexual needs, glad for a superficial stability that allows him an illusion of power, if not independence. When Maguy’s estranged daughter Helene (Ludivine Sagnier) turns up and starts an affair with Mirko’s best friend Stefan (Radivoje Bukvic), Mirko plants a stolen ring in Stefan’s stuff, preferring to destroy the menage himself. Pedestrian direction is coupled with uneven editing, while the art department makes Maguy’s villa look like showrooms in a cheap furniture store. Frequent Fieschi collaborator Nicole Garcia is credited as tech advisor.