An instant primer on why French cinema is “different” (and why it’s not doing so hot), “An Outgoing Woman” shows affection for characters only a screenwriter could love. In her first leading role, award-winning playwright-scripter Agnes Jaoui does a fine turn as a 35-year-old woman coming unhinged. But where pic’s mission to show something that could happen to any woman should be touching, it simply registers as tedious.
Francoise (Jaoui), a nurse and mother of three, learns that Jacques (Serge Riaboukine), her lumpy hubby of 15 years, is having an affair with a slutty young secretary. Thrown for a loop, Francoise banishes Serge from their comfy house and starts hanging out in bars in the nearest city. Pic’s best scenes are her initial awkward attempts at enjoying insipid night life.
Francoise wheedles time off from her job at a hospital; neglects her children , then smothers them in tiny bursts; meanders in the presumably allegorical backstage of a boxing ring; has one-night stands; takes in two dim-bulb drifters who are grateful for her kindness; and ends up as a patient at the hospital where she works, sleeping round the clock. She snaps out of it just in time for the closing credits.
When Francoise announces to her husband that without his cheating she would have missed out on half of what life has to offer, the viewer is at a loss to understand what was most missing from her life: all-night bowling or the chance to fall asleep in her car during the day?
Rendered in a nervous semi-docu style, pic may be a provincial feminist tract or it may be championing self-actualization through recreational drinking. Either way, first-time helmer and co-scripter Christophe Blanc makes it impossible to care.