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Trophy Wife


Movie Info

Set in 1977 in a provincial French town, POTICHE is a free adaptation of the 1970s eponymous hit comic play. Catherine Deneuve is Suzanne Pujol, a submissive, housebound 'trophy housewife' (or "potiche,") who steps in to manage the umbrella factory run by her wealthy and tyrannical husband (Fabrice Luchini) after the workers go on strike and take him hostage. To everyone's surprise, Suzanne proves herself a competent and assertive woman of action. But when her husband returns from a restful cruise in top form, things get complicated. Gérard Depardieu plays a former union leader and Suzanne's ex-beau who still holds a flame for her. Acclaimed writer-director Francois Ozon ("Swimming Pool," "Under the Sand," "Time to Leave,") who had previously directed Ms. Deneuve in the international hit "8 Women," twists the original play on its head to create his own satirical and hilarious take on the war between the sexes and classes. POTICHE reunites French cinema legends Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu in an ensemble cast that includes comic greats Fabrice Luchini and Karin Viard (as Luchini's secretary and mistress,) while Judith Godreche and Jérémie Renier play the Pujols' entitled daughter and sexually ambiguous son. The impeccable 1970s era set design and costumes, were created by Katia Wyzkop and Pascaline Chavanne, respectively. -- (C) Music Box Films

Run time 103 min.

Trailor in French with English sub-titles:


Review in French:«Potiche» : une comédie pas cruche ***

« S'ils veulent gagner plus, il faut travailler plus », voilà ce que répond Robert Pujol aux ouvriers en grève de son usine de parapluies. On est dans le Nord, en 1977, et la lutte des classes, ça ne lui fait pas peur, à Pujol. Sauf que, quand il fait un malaise cardiaque, c'est son épouse, Suzanne, qui se retrouve aux commandes de la boîte. Et voilà la potiche qui se change en patronne pas cruche… A priori, c'est vrai, on se dit que c'est une drôle d'idée d'exhumer une pièce de boulevard créée il y a trente ans pour aborder « la place de la femme dans la société ». Malin, Ozon joue sur les deux tableaux, la reconstitution d'époque, vraiment drôle, et les résonances avec la France d'aujourd'hui. Entre Deneuve qui joue de son image avec un humour fou, l'hilarante misogynie de Luchini, Depardieu en « camarade » et les autres, on rit énormément. COMÉDIE FRANÇAISE de François Ozon. Avec Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godrèche, Jérémie Rénier… Durée : 1 h 43.

*Un peu **Beaucoup ***Passionnément •Pas du tout

Potiche – review by the Guardian

Catherine Deneuve stars in Francois Ozon's stage adaptation, a hilarious French comedy of deliberate naffness, says Peter Bradshaw

If Hillary and Tenzing were to erect a tent at Everest's peak, on stilts, the overall effect could not be more high camp than this bizarre and often hilarious 1970s-set drawing-room comedy from French film-maker François Ozon, and starring a resplendent Catherine Deneuve. It is a period pastiche executed with brilliant attention to detail and a weird, suppressed passion, like a sitcom in a bad dream. A batsqueak of strangeness is audible above the dialogue and perky orchestral score, and something odd occasionally peeps out from the soft furnishings. Buñuel might have taken it further; Ozon coolly leaves it at the garish, minutely rendered surface level. There is, however, more than enough here to generate comedy, satire and shrewd comment on what might be going on in the collective mind of Giscard d'Estaing's France, or Sarkozy's France.

  1. Potiche
  2. Production year: 2010
  3. Country: France
  4. Cert (UK): 15
  5. Runtime: 103 mins
  6. Directors: Francois Ozon
  7. Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Fabrice Luchini, Gerard Depardieu, Jeremie Renier, Judith Godreche, Karin Viard

Deneuve is demure, poised, twinkly-eyed, conveying a sense that all her character's responses to life are being held tactfully in reserve. She plays Suzanne Pujol, a "potiche", or trophy wife. Mme Pujol's household is wealthy but not super-rich. Her cantankerous and reactionary husband Robert (Fabrice Luchini) is the president of the factory Suzanne's father originally founded; his aggressive and insensitive management style has done nothing to cool a growing atmosphere of unrest.

This factory makes umbrellas, and Ozon naturally wants to evoke the memory of a young Deneuve in the 1964 movie The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, although this is adapted from the 1980 stage play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy in which the umbrella factory was also featured. It is a piece of French "boulevard theatre", a staid convention whose nearest Anglo-Saxon match is perhaps the American "dinner theatre" or the Whitehall farces of Brian Rix.

Suzanne's daughter Joëlle (Judith Godrèche) is as rightwing as her father; her student son Laurent (Jérémie Rénier) is a trendy lefty. Worldly Suzanne accepts the fact that her husband is having an affair with his mousy and resentful secretary Nadège (Karin Viard), but when Robert's health is shattered by a violent strike, Suzanne has to take over the factory, and does so with the help of a secret ex-lover, the communist mayor Maurice Babin, tenderly played by Gérard Depardieu. She is a glorious success, but her personal life is now in uproar.

When I first saw Potiche at the Venice film festival last year, it seemed so intensely French that there could not possibly be any British equivalent. (It is similar to, but far more satisfying and rounded than Ozon's other stage pastiche, 8 Women, from 2002.) I mused on something similar by Michael Winterbottom – like Ozon, a prolific, wide-ranging director – who might direct a piece scripted by Julian Fellowes. Actually, there are hints here of Benny Hill and Carry On in the broad comedy style. When Robert lies ill, Nadège bustles into his sick-room with some of her homemade broth. "I thought I would give you my speciality," she beams. "Yes," says Robert thoughtfully, undoing his pyjama trousers, "… perhaps it will do me some good." "I meant my soup!" snaps Nadège. Ozon might have been tempted to put in a trombone parp.

Everything in Potiche throbs and shimmers with naffness: its furnishings have a kind of retro-porn look, without the sex – without the explicit sex anyway. Ozon supercharges its datedness, and its parochial quality, with a meticulous observational intensity. Yet it can also upend expectations. When Laurent begins work as a designer at the factory, he develops swishy, campy mannerisms but a final reveal, which appears to point to Laurent's gayness, actually discloses something other than homosexuality. When Deneuve is seen doing some stately jogging at the beginning and end of the movie in her chi-chi tracksuit, sighing at the deer and squirrels she sees, and even writing little verses, we are invited to laugh with, not at her. In fact the whole movie stays the same side of the laugh-at/laugh-with borderline. It is superbly acted and designed. Generally stage adaptations taken from this kind of material lose their way when they have to venture out through the French windows into the world beyond. But the scenes outside the factory gates, the tatty, fag-ashy factory conference room, Babin's office, the cheesy disco nightspot – they are all brilliantly presented.

Potiche comes to a dramatic point when Robert Pujol ferociously rejects any pay rises. "To earn more, they have to work more!" he yells, a line that could have been scripted for him by President Sarkozy himself. But it is Mme Pujol who is to cultivate a political career. With her swept-up hair and queenly manner, she might be aping a certain British party leader – in style if not ideology – who in 1977 was beginning to make her presence felt. British politicians are not mentioned, but, tellingly, British shareholders make up an important voting bloc on the company board.

Every day, the French public are presented with the curious spectacle of President Sarkozy being towered over by his beaming wife, Carla Bruni, a figure whose public profile is vigorously independent of his. Once modish and exciting, the Sarkozy reign is reportedly beginning to look dated and tiresome. There is something absurd in it, something absurd in all power couples, or the power relations in all marriages. Potiche is a potent comedy for these conservative times.