×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cherchez Hortense

Helmer Pascal Bonitzer, screenwriter for Andre Techine and Jacques Rivette, here hews closer to the gentle humanism of the former, even if this well-acted feature lacks the emotional and thematic density of Techine's best work.

With:
With: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Kristin Scott Thomas, Isabelle Carre, Marin Orcand Tourres, Claude Rich, Arthur Igual, Jackie Berroyer, Masahiro Kashiwagi, Jerome Beaujour, Iliana Lolic, Francis Leplay. (French, Serbian dialogue)

The characters in the loquacious Gallic dramedy “Cherchez Hortense” aren’t looking for Hortense so much as for ways to survive a stagnant marriage, and for the courage to deal with things they would prefer to ignore. Helmer Pascal Bonitzer, screenwriter for Andre Techine and Jacques Rivette, here hews closer to the gentle humanism of the former, even if this well-acted feature lacks the emotional and thematic density of Techine’s best work. With lead turns by Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas, this could do respectable arthouse numbers at home and reach select offshore venues.

Bacri, best known Stateside for his roles in Agnes Jaoui’s equally talky dissections of Parisian intellectuals (“The Taste of Others,” “Look at Me”), here stars as Damien, who teaches Asian culture and customs at a business school. The only thing he still really shares with his theater-director wife, Iva (Scott Thomas), is the care of their bespectacled, perpetually worried young son (Marin Orcand Tourres).

Popular on Variety

The demanding Iva has asked her absent-minded hubby to talk to his dad (Claude Rich), who works at the Council of State (France’s highest advisory body), about the case of a foreigner, Zorica, who could be expelled because she’s divorced and no longer has the right to remain in France. Zorica, from former Yugoslavia, is the best friend of the wife (Iliana Lolic) of Iva’s brother (Francis Leplay). But Damien isn’t close to his father and is loath to talk to the imperious old man, let alone ask for a favor for someone he’s never met.

Written by Bonitzer and Agathe de Sacy (“Bad Faith,” “Je l’aimais”), the film starts with the frazzled, chain-smoking Iva, who’s courted by one of the younger thesps (Arthur Igual) she’s working with. But as the pic progresses, it becomes clear that the true protag is Damien, who has turned dragging his feet into an art.

In a nice, almost mirror image of Iva’s extramarital dalliance, the early middle-aged Damien strikes up an unexpected friendship with Aurore (Carre), a simple, radiant woman who works in a nearby restaurant. How her story ties into the plot is fairly predictable and will be clear to attentive auds a lot earlier than it is to Damien, who needs to discover Iva’s infidelity first and then throw his wife out of the house (and, unfortunately, pretty much out of the picture). However, the way Bonitzer resolves Aurore’s Gordian knot of a subplot is satisfying, down to its poetic ending.

Generally, the film is less about story points than about the characters’ relationships and the world they live in, a contempo society that’s clearly multicultural but doesn’t grant the same value to all cultures. Asia provides seductive new superpowers that might soon surpass the West and have already colonized more than just its food culture — in the film’s most overt, not entirely successful attempt at comedy, two characters sleep with a hot Japanese waiter (Masahiro Kashiwagi) — while Russian and Eastern European influences exist both high and low: Chekhov and Nabokov have been culturally assimilated, while Zorica isn’t even allowed to stay in France despite being, in many ways, more French than most Frenchies.

Acting is uniformly solid, with Bacri in fine form as a grown-up, independent man still paralyzed by his father and Rich the perfect mix of authority, couldn’t-care-less attitude and charm. Carre is luminous, and Scott Thomas, here a brunette with a grown-out perm, impresses in another frigid characterization; it’s a fully realized performance, if not a fully realized role.

Assembly is strong, with Alexei Aigui’s score driving things forward in the early going before turning more melancholy as the characters and their quandaries become more pronounced.

Cherchez Hortense

France

Production: A Le Pacte release of a Said Ben Said presentation of an SBS Prods. production, in association with Orange Cinema Series. Produced by Ben Said. Directed by Pascal Bonitzer. Screenplay, Bonitzer, Agathe de Sacy.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Romain Winding; editor, Elise Fievet; music, Alexei Aigui; production designer, Manu de Chauvigny; costume designer, Marielle Robaut; sound (Dolby Digital), Philippe Richard; assistant director, Juliette Maillard; casting, Antoinette Boulat, Bernard Savin Pascaud. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (noncompeting), Aug. 31, 2012. Running time: 100 MIN.

Cast: With: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Kristin Scott Thomas, Isabelle Carre, Marin Orcand Tourres, Claude Rich, Arthur Igual, Jackie Berroyer, Masahiro Kashiwagi, Jerome Beaujour, Iliana Lolic, Francis Leplay. (French, Serbian dialogue)

More Scene

  • Blake Lively

    Why Blake Lively Isn't Trying to Be the 'Female James Bond' in 'The Rhythm Section'

    “The Rhythm Section,” Reed Morano’s new espionage thriller about a female assassin who sets out to avenge her family’s untimely death, is not a female-led approximation of a “James Bond” film. Though Barbara Broccoli, the magnate producer whose family has been solely responsible for the franchise, is producing the movie, “The Rhythm Section” is decidedly not [...]

  • Oscar Menu to Be Almost All

    Oscar Menu to Be Almost All Plant-Based

    The Oscars are getting greener. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Monday that it will be offering entirely plant-based menus at today’s Oscar Nominees Luncheon and then in the Dolby Theatre lobbies prior to the 92nd Academy Awards on Feb. 9. The post-ceremony Governors Ball will be 70% plant-based, and 30% [...]

  • 'Little America' Team on Creating Immigration

    'Little America' Team on Creating the Immigration Anthology Series for Apple TV Plus

    Respect and authenticity were the key words at the screening of the new Apple TV Plus series “Little America” on Thursday in Los Angeles. Produced by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon and inspired by true stories featured in Epic Magazine, “Little America” is an anthology series focused on immigration. For executive producer Sian Heder, [...]

  • 2018 Sundance Film Festival - Egyptian

    Sundance 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Heading to Park City? From intimate dinners and cocktail parties to late night bashes (that end just in time to head to brunch), there’s plenty to keep this year’s film festival attendees out of the cold between screenings. Here is Variety’s ultimate party guide for Sundance 2020:  Popular on Variety Thursday, Jan. 23 “Summertime” Premiere Party [...]

  • BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 21:

    Jenna Andrews Hosts Zhavia Ward, Lennon Stella at Jed Foundation Fundraiser

    Jenna Andrews, the Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer and executive, hosted a pre-Grammy event in partnership with The Jed Foundation at Alice and Olivia in West Hollywood on Tuesday.  The non-profit Jed is dedicated to protecting emotional health and preventing suicide. The foundation has partnered with high schools and colleges in order to “strengthen mental health, [...]

  • Coldplay - Chris Martin

    Grammys 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Let the music play, indeed. The Grammys are just days away and dozens of parties are happening every night this week leading up to the big day, Sunday, Jan. 26. And the partying continues with several bashes following the ceremony. (All events listed are by invitation only unless marked otherwise; this list is being updated [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content