“All That Glitters” has not only been B.O. gold since its late March release in France, it’s also a charmingly warm and studied portrait of two saucy young femmes who sacrifice friendship to penetrate the elitist realm of Paris’ upper classes. Both chick-pic-with-a-heart and socially smart dramedy, this freshman effort from scribe-helmers Geraldine Nakache (who also co-stars) and Herve Mimran is packed with wit and youthful energy, and manages to avoid Easy Street on its way to a reasonable emotional payoff. Following a successful Gallic dig, arthouse distribs should look to mine the pic’s undeniable appeal.
The rags-to-riches tale (or in this case, H&M to Marc Jacobs) is a tried and tested one that, at least in France, dates as far back as Honore de Balzac’s “Le Pere Goriot.” But what Nakache and Mimran bring to the table feels subtler than the genre’s usual offerings, and also utterly contemporary: In today’s society, where you’re from is certainly important, but even more important is how well you can sport $800 shoes, get into the best clubs and pretend to blend in with lots of beautiful people.
For working-class gals Lila (Leila Bekhti, moving) and Ely (Nakache, intelligent and effective) — who hail from the neighboring and fairly pleasant banlieue of Puteaux — the lures of latenight Paris (whose secrets they glean from a women’s mag) will lead them from their humdrum lives as shopping-mall employees to a world that welcomes them as accessories at best, servants at worst.
When Lila meets pretty boy Maxx (Simon Buret) during the ladies’ first night out, she falls instantly in love — if not with him, than at least with the idea of dating a rich guy. Meanwhile, Ely inadvertently becomes the babysitter for the son of fashion shutterbug Agathe (Virginie Ledoyen) and her muse, Joan (Linh-Dan Pham), and spends her nights in a swank apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower.
As the two convince themselves they belong on the right side of the tracks, their relationships with both each other and their families grow increasingly strained. A heartbreaking scene shows Ely’s cabbie dad (Daniel Cohen, stoic and impressive) being humiliated by his daughter’s newfound buddies, while Lila continues to lie to her hometown b.f. (Manu Payet) about her true intentions.
Well-structured script dodges the cliches one would expect here: The chic folk are never portrayed as monsters, but as affably oblivious to those who exist outside their airtight circles. And while Ely and Lila suffer in their efforts to infiltrate les beaux quartiers, they maintain their own tongue-in-cheek sincerity throughout, and lead lives that are realistically grounded in both material and materialistic needs.
Some scenaristic shortcuts hamper the plausibility factor at times, but a sleek tech package and terrific pacing by vet editor Scott Stevenson (“Cyborg,” “La haine”) help move things along toward a touching finale.
A soundtrack filled with cuts by British rap act the Streets provides the kind of music that both real and wannabe French hipsters actually listen to.