The Role of a Lifetime

A 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. Debut for co-scripter/helmer Francois Favrat is performing nicely in Gaul.

With:
Elisabeth Becker - Agnes Jaoui Claire Rocher - Karin Viard Mathias Curval - Jonathan Zaccai

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.”

The Role of a Lifetime

France

Production: A Mars Distribution release of a Les Films du Kiosque, StudioCanal, France 2 Cinema, Gamzu production with participation of Canal Plus and Cinecinema, with assistance from Cofimage 13, Sogecinema 2, Gimage 6, Natexis Banques Populaire Images 3 and support from Region Ile-de-France, CNC, Procirep. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Boulogne-Billancourt.) Produced by Francois Kraus, Denis Pineau-Valencienne. Directed by Francois Favrat. Screenplay, Favrat, Julie Lopes-Curval, Jerome Beaujour, Roger Bohbot;

Crew: Camera (color), Pascal Marti, Marc Tevanian; editors, Vincent Levy, Luc Barnier; music, Philippe Rombi; production designer, Olivier Jacquet; costume designer, Edith Brehat; sound (Dolby), Olivier Mauvezin, Stephane Thiebaut, Raphael Sohier, Thomas Desjon queres; assistant director, Serge De Closets; casting, Nathaniele Esther. Reviewed at UGC Danton, Paris, July 2, 2004. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Elisabeth Becker - Agnes Jaoui Claire Rocher - Karin Viard Mathias Curval - Jonathan ZaccaiWith: Marcial Di Fonzo Bo, Claude Cretient, Anne Mercier, Laurent Lafitte.

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