A wryly observed sophomore dramedy from scribe-helmer Marc Fitoussi ("La Vie d'artiste").

With: Isabelle Huppert, Lolita Chammah, Aure Atika, Jurgen Delnaet, Chantal Banlier, Magali Woch, Nelly Antignac, Guillaume Gouix, Joachim Lombard, Noemie Lvovsky, Luis Rego.

Kind-hearted realism and spirited thesping are very much the fashion in “Copacabana,” a wryly observed sophomore dramedy from scribe-helmer Marc Fitoussi (“La Vie d’artiste”). Set in the hottest spot north of, um, Ghent, this amusing tale of a Boho mom who enters the time-share biz to win back her daughter’s love starts off on shaky ground, but soon finds its footing thanks largely to Isabelle Huppert, appearing here in carefree comic mode rather than her usual ice-queen routine. Backed by a strong Franco-Flemish cast and generally efficient storytelling, pic should cha-cha among arthouse distribs after its Cannes Critics’ Week premiere.

Despite its title and a soundtrack that includes songs by Astrud Gilberto and Jorge Ben, “Copacabana” has little to do with Brazil and much to do with Belgium. It’s there that, following a disconcerting first-reel setup, the unemployed and single Babou (Huppert) heads to sell beachfront apartments in the northern resort town of Ostend, which looks in the winter like the kind of place where Michael Haneke or Bruno Dumont would gladly spend a weekend.

Babou is what the French call a “baba-cool,” a sort of bourgeois hippie who never held down a steady job, and dragged her daughter Esmeralda (Lolita Chammah) from one country to the next in search of the ultimate laid-back lifestyle. But now that Esmeralda is grown up and about to marry clean-cut salesman Justin (Joachim Lombard), Babou needs to prove she has the chops to be the kind of hardworking, old-fashioned mom her daughter now needs.

When she lands the real estate gig, it’s here that the narrative really picks up interest and humor, as the story transforms into a cleverly framed study of the highly competitive (and equally dubious) business of vacation time-share sales. Ever the iconoclast, Babou remains her insouciant self, but still finds a way to outperform her fiercest rival, Irene (Chantal Banlier, hilarious), eventually becoming the favorite of cutthroat middle manager Lydie (Aure Atika, on point).

What’s most enjoyable about Fitoussi’s characters is how few concessions they make — these folks are what they are, and because they’re mostly blue-collar, they have no choice but to work and stick together despite obvious differences. Thus, when Babou meets local dockworker Bart (the generous Jurgen Delnaet, from “Moscow, Belgium”) and promptly begins an affair, it’s clear to us (though not at first to Bart) that she’s simply enjoying herself but will never be in it for the long term.

Huppert is hugely believable as Babou, making her seem less like the flighty New Age type then like someone who approaches life with eager curiosity, only to be ready to move on as soon as things grow dull. Her relationship with Esmeralda is characterized by the latter’s rebellion against everything mom stands for, while Babou is forced to somewhat grin and bear her daughter’s conservativeness, until eventually stepping in to give a loving and helping hand.

Tech credits are solid, with Helene Louvart (“The Beaches of Agnes”) capturing the depressing contempo decors with natural lighting that shows hints of warmth.



Production: A Mars Distribution release (in France) of an Avenue B, Arte France Cinema, Mars Films, Caviar Films production, in association with Banque Populaire Images 9, Sofica Soficinema 5, with participation of Crrav Nord-Pas de Calais. (International sales: Kinology, Paris.) Produced by Caroline Bonmarchand. Directed, written by Marc Fitoussi.

Crew: Camera (color), Helene Louvart; editor, Martine Giordano; music, Tim Gane, Sean O'Hagan; production designer, Michel Barthelemy; costume designer, Anne Schotte; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Olivier Le Vacon, Benjamin Laurent, Emmanuel Croset; assistant director, Laure Prevost; casting, Fitoussi. Reviewed at Club Lincoln, Paris, May 5, 2010. (In Cannes Film Festival -- Critics' Week.) Running time: 105 MIN.

With: With: Isabelle Huppert, Lolita Chammah, Aure Atika, Jurgen Delnaet, Chantal Banlier, Magali Woch, Nelly Antignac, Guillaume Gouix, Joachim Lombard, Noemie Lvovsky, Luis Rego.(French, Flemish, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big

    Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big At Durban FilmMart Awards

    DURBAN–Female-driven narratives and daring portraits of queer culture around the continent were the big winners at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, which handed out awards at a ceremony Monday night at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel. Among the prize-winners were the story of a Zimbabwean woman [...]

  • Oscar Nominations Reactions Phyllis Nagy

    Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy Runs for Writers Guild Presidency, Citing Agency Stalemate

    Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s incumbent president David Goodman, citing his handling of the bitter stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy announced her candidacy online Monday night, a day before the deadline for filing. She made the announcement  in a private online group as part of Writers for [...]

  • Klaudia-Reynicke

    Locarno: Summerside Picks Up ‘Love Me Tender’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rome-based Summerside Intl. has acquired international sales rights to Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender.” The second feature from Peru-born and Switzerland-based filmmaker will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Festival in its Filmmakers of the Present competition, which focuses on first and second features. Summerside Intl. is the world sales agent, excluding and Lichtenstein [...]

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

  • Ridley Scott Matt Damon Ben Affleck

    Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofcener Team on 'The Last Duel'

    Ridley Scott looks to have his next directing job, as he has signed on to direct “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attached to star. Damon and Affleck co-wrote the script with Oscar-nominated Nicole Holofcener. Scott, Damon and Affleck all producing along with Scott’s producing partner Kevin Walsh. Drew Vinton is also [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content