Who doesn’t love a good sociopath? In novelist-director Sébastien Marnier’s feature debut “Faultless,” he conjures up a doozy with Constance, an obsessive in the “Fatal Attraction” mold who just wants her old job back. No matter what it takes. The title refers to Constance’s twisted sense of personal culpability, though it could also be used to describe the committed performance of star Marina Foïs (“Polisse”). Fun and engrossing, with enough tension and sex thrown in to satisfy viewers looking for well-made, handsomely packaged thriller fare, “Faultless” seems like obvious remake material, suitable for multiple territories. At home the film earned just over $1 million on summer release, though streaming should increase revenue.
With her knockoff Versace blouse and second-rate blonde dye job, Constance looks very much like a provincial transplant to Paris, which is exactly what she’s been for the last six years. But now she’s lost her real estate job and run out of money, so it’s back to her mother’s place in the sticks (the midwest coastal province of Charente-Maritime, to be exact). First order of business is to lay siege to her ex-boyfriend and colleague Philippe (Jérémie Elkaïm), who she hopes can persuade her reluctant former boss Alain (Jean-Luc Vincent) to take her back into the agency. It’s a no-go, but in the process, Constance enjoys rekindling Philippe’s flame.
Not that she’s still emotionally attached – she’s putting more energy into occasional sex dates with Gilles (Benjamin Biolay), a businessman she met on the train with a penchant for dominant-submissive romps. It’s more that Constance wants to always be in control (being submissive during sex doesn’t mean she’s relinquished power), plus she really needs a job, since she’s reduced to wolfing down canned corn she finds in her mother’s pantry. She’s especially put out when she learns that Alain has hired young, beautiful Audrey (Joséphine Japy, “Breathe”), so she launches into classic stalker mode, posing as a prospective buyer to befriend her rival … and get her out of the way.
Even if we’ve seen it all before, there’s something about stalkers that draws an audience in: perhaps it’s the audaciousness of it all, the lack of boundaries that makes us so fascinated. Constance is a horrible human being but a mesmerizing case study, and Marnier, with Foïs’ more than able assistance, crafts a character with a wellspring of obsessive behavior, from cyberstalking to a fanatical physical fitness regime that acts as one of several ways to wear down the unsuspecting Audrey. Philippe is almost too nice, Audrey is too naïve (and why does she have no friends?), but Constance is fully conceived, with Marnier parceling out just enough information to allow for a steady stream of revelations. Of course, she could look for a job in some other town, but that’s not the point: Constance’s psychosis isn’t designed to work on that kind of easy logic.
Foïs plays the character with relentless energy, a nonstop conniver with no capability for lateral thinking. It’s the right contrast to Japy’s open-faced credulousness and Elkaïm’s warm aura of affability, all played against sunnily lensed scenes that make their hometown feel like the classic, picture-perfect locale designed to off-set perverse behavior. Marité Coutard’s costume designs deserve mention, bold enough to be noticed while subtly underlining personality. Zombie Zombie’s music, however, too frequently pushes a sense of unease long before there’s a noticeable reason to feel that way.