A self-effacing copy editor gets an overdose of reflected glory when she becomes the personal assistant to a self-centered French actress in “The Role of a Lifetime.” Nicely observed two-hander gives two of Gaul’s leading talents their fair share of meaty situations and well-crafted dialogue but has nothing new to impart about the limelight-versus-the-shadows. Noteworthy debut for co-scripter/helmer Francois Favrat is performing nicely in Gaul.
Congenitally nice and bottomlessly accommodating Claire (Karin Viard) is thrown together with her idol, successful screen thesp Elisabeth Becker (Agnes Jaoui), when Claire’s boss at Elle magazine asks if she can drive the diva to an appointment.
Claire perpetually stifles her own needs when faced with the needs of others. Her gay housemate Luis (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo) is behind on his share of the rent, yet has talked Claire into staying away evenings so he can nurture a promising new romance.
Claire falls into a gig as Elisabeth’s on-call secretary-cum-errand girl, present for — yet not quite part of — the star’s heady life. Because Claire’s acquiescence is immediate even when she’d rather demur, she’s ill-equipped to manage her feelings when the imperious Elisabeth beds Mathias (Jonathan Zaccai), the man-of-the-people landscape gardener Claire obviously liked first.
Elisabeth takes Claire for granted, but she’s not an egotistical monster Rather, her behavior is inconsiderate — and therein lies the narrative’s potential drawback for non-Gallic auds, who expect their bosses-from-hell to be convincing stand-ins for Lucifer. Pic’s toned down approach makes the goings-on more credible, but also, ultimately, less interesting than one might wish.
By pic’s end, both female protags have taken baby steps toward being happier people. Still, one can’t help but think that if Favrat had written “All About Eve,” it would have been, “A Few Slightly Unflattering but Not-Too-Incriminating Things About Eve.”