You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Gilded Cage’

Ruben Alves' feel-good debut feature explores the plight of immigrant workers who have long acclimated to another culture.

Rita Blanco, Joaquim de Almeida, Barbara Cabrita, Roland Giraud, Chantal Lauby, Lannick Gautry, Jacqueline Corado, Maria Vieira; Nicole Croisille. (French, Portuguese dialogue)

Exploitation along class and ethnic lines is played for laughs in Ruben Alves’ debut feature, “The Gilded Cage,” with just enough solidarity beneath the humor to give this feel-good pic a certain piquancy. Alves explores the intriguing question of what constitutes home for a family of Portuguese immigrant workers who have long acclimated to French culture, while also delivering a salutary kick in the pants to the uptight haute bourgeoisie a la Philippe Le Guay’s “The Women on the 6th Floor,” with much of that film’s energetic thesping but little of its cinematic elan. A box office bonanza in France and Portugal, this bubbling crowdpleaser could score globally.

Their innate kindness, fierce dedication to their work and inability to say no have allowed a Portuguese couple to smoothly run a swanky Parisian apartment building for many years. Quiet, indomitable Maria Ribeiro (Rita Blanco, a mainstay of numerous Portuguese films and TV series) serves as concierge, picking up laundry, babysitting, gardening and performing a host of little services that go far beyond her job description. Salt-of-the-earth hubby Jose (Joaquim de Almeida, a veteran of more than a hundred Hollywood films), when not working as a construction foreman, performs numerous tasks as handyman in the posh building, living with wife and kids in the crowded concierge’s loge.

An unexpected windfall requires that the couple go back to Portugal to retire in luxury in the land of their dreams. They keep silent about the inheritance but, unbeknownst to them, word gets out, whereupon all the people who depend on their help hatch separate plots to manipulate them into staying. The building’s owner (Nicole Croisille) hires extra personnel to take over some of Maria’s tasks and promises to enlarge her cramped living quarters. Jose’s boss (Roland Giraud) offers praise and a raise, openly encouraging the romance between his son Charles (Lannick Gautry) and the Ribeiros’ daughter Paula (Barbara Cabrita). Even Maria’s sister Lourdes (Jacqueline Corado) pretends her husband is dying to ensure that sis sticks around to launch (and cook for) their projected Portuguese restaurant.

When the Ribeiros learn of the selfish scheming of their employers, friends and family, they exact suitably theatrical, highly undutiful revenge. But although they pull off their revolt with commendable panache, their hearts really aren’t in it. They have begun to seriously question where they belong, their commitment to their long-held Portuguese dream vying with their unexpectedly deep French roots.

The Ribeiros’ seriously divided loyalties, lent a certain gravitas by the leads’ nuanced thesping, play out in an atmosphere of increasing farce. Alves limns his characters with varying levels of caricature. Corado’s Lourdes and her sidekick Rosa (Maria Vieira), given to melodramatic utterances, overblown gestures and spontaneous dance steps, skirt stereotype, as does Croisille’s supercilious rich bitch. By contrast, in the role of the Ribeiros’ loving daughter Paula, Cabrita positively radiates beauty, brains and compassion.

Alves ultimately unites his large cast in festive unity, with comic reversals redeeming the seemingly irredeemable in farcical fashion, and with large doses of ethnic warming. But though his characters display lively joie de vivre, Alves’ direction remains rather stolid, owing more to populist telenovelas than to any of the more daring Gallic explorations of immigrant experience.

Film Review: 'The Gilded Cage'

Reviewed at Walter Reade Theater, New York, Feb. 24, 2014. (In "Rendez-vous With French Cinema," New York.) Running time: 87 MIN. (Original title: “La Cage doree”)

Production: (France) A Pathe Intl. release of a Zazi Films, Pathe, TF1 Films Prod., TF1, Canal Plus, Cine Plus production. (International sales: Pathe Intl., Paris.) Produced by Hugo Gelin, Laetitia Galitzine, Daniele Delorme. Co-producer, Romain Le Grand.

Crew: Directed by Ruben Alves. Screenplay, Alves, Jean-Andre Yerles, Hugo Gelin. Camera (color), Andre Szankowski; editor, Nassim Gordji Tehrani; music, Rodrigo Leao; production designer, Maamar Ech-Cheikh; costume designer, Isabelle Mathieu; sound (Dolby), Thomas Lascar; supervising sound editor, Olivier Walczak; re-recording mixer, Vincent Cosson; casting, Pierre-Jacques Benichou, Julie David, Patricia Vasconcelos.

With: Rita Blanco, Joaquim de Almeida, Barbara Cabrita, Roland Giraud, Chantal Lauby, Lannick Gautry, Jacqueline Corado, Maria Vieira; Nicole Croisille. (French, Portuguese dialogue)

More Film

  • Daniel Craig

    Daniel Craig to Undergo Ankle Surgery After 'Bond 25' Injury

    Daniel Craig will undergo ankle surgery after sustaining an injury while filming “Bond 25.” “Daniel Craig will be undergoing minor ankle surgery resulting from an injury sustained during filming in Jamaica,” the franchise’s official Twitter account posted. “Production will continue whilst Craig is rehabilitating for two weeks post-surgery. The film remains on track for the [...]

  • Oh Mercy

    Cannes Film Review: 'Oh Mercy'

    It takes more than just watching “Oh Mercy” to understand exactly why Arnaud Desplechin was drawn to the subject matter of his latest movie, a reasonably engrossing police procedural with roots in a 2008 TV documentary. Something of an unexpected detour in the veteran director’s weighty career, the film combines multiple strands to paint a [...]

  • Spielberg's Amblin Chief Jeff Small on

    Listen: Spielberg's Amblin Chief on Making 'Movies in the Middle'

    With the sequel “A Dog’s Journey” now in theaters, Amblin Partners continues to find ways to release the kind of films that aren’t typical of what dominates American multiplexes these days. An follow-up to the 2017 surprise hit “A Dog’s Purpose,” “Journey” is just another example of the cinematic strategy evident at Amblin, the production [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    French Animation 'I Lost My Body' Tops Cannes Critics' Week Winners

    “I Lost My Body,” a dark French animated film from writer-director Jérémy Clapin, has come up trumps in this year’s Critics’ Week program at the Cannes Film Festival, taking the strand’s top honor, the Nespresso Grand Prize. The film, which follows a young man’s severed hand as it struggles to be reunited with its own, [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Talent Agents Blast Verve Agreement With Writers Guild

    The lead negotiator for Hollywood’s talent agencies has again blasted the Writers Guild and its recent agreement with the Verve agency — and cautioned other agencies against following suit. Verve defected from the major agencies on May 16 when it became the first sizable Hollywood talent agency to sign the WGA’s Code of Conduct. That [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content