July 16th, 2021
MOVIE: MAMA WEED
STARRING: ISABELLE HUPPERT, HIPPOLYTE GIRARDOT, NADJA NGUYEN
DIRECTED BY: JEAN-PAUL SALOME
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The acting chameleon that Isabelle Huppert is will make any movie better, with her recent performance in Mama Weed, Huppert seems to be having more fun than she’s ever had before. I can’t claim I’ve seen all of Huppert’s work to make an exaggerated statement, but what is obvious is that Huppert is taking the edge off in Jean-Paul Salome’s high spirited affair, playing things cool, and making me laugh along the way. Mama Weed is not laugh out loud funny either, it just takes an interesting scenario, where a translator for the French police drug unit, then becomes a successful drug dealer on the side. Mama Weed is not taking things too serious and showing a different side of Isabelle Huppert that is once again delightful. Mama Weed had me high on it’s supply and gave me a breath of fresh air.
The premise does not take long to establish; Huppert is playing Patience, working in the day translating for the police to catch drug dealers and then visiting her sick mother at the nursing home in the evening. With each day passing, paying for her mother’s living situation, her two daughters frequently visiting after the recent death of her husband, it all makes the cost of living for Patience a heavy burden. Those two worlds collide when a big drug bust involves the son of the nurse taking care of Patience’s mother. Patience sends the police in the other direction, so now there are drugs sitting in a safe house on the outskirts of town. With this information at hand, Patience takes a ride to the location to swipe the product before any of the dealers can locate it, turning her find into her own lucrative business, for as long as she can keep it up.
Director Jean-Paul Salome, who co-wrote the screenplay, adapted from Hannelore Cayre’s novel, has made the wise choice of casting the incredibly charismatic Huppert, who plays the role with a carefree swagger that only the legendary actress could pull off. Mama Weed feels like the more comedic side of what Huppert delivered in her Academy Award nominated role in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle. When Patience becomes the mysterious dealer on the side, we get to see Huppert wrapped in flower print hijab’s, with big sunglasses, and carrying her supply around in a designer luggage bag. Never has a drug dealer looked this fabulous and only Huppert could make it look this cool.
The second half of Mama Weed involves Patience maneuvering her supply back to the initial sellers, keeping her police sergeant boss/love interest Philippe (Hippolyte Girardot) at a distance, while also partnering with her landlord Colette (Nadja Nguyen) to protect her investment. That partnership is where the third act of Mama Weed pushes through the stagnant and repetitive beats. It’s a friendship that we didn’t see arriving, but it also adds to the mystery of what can happen as the walls close in. Beneath the surface Mama Weed has a dash of Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther, the comedic stylings of Melissa McCarthy in Spy, and the fast tension of keeping the game going as we see in I Care a Lot. It’s the sharp side of Mama Weed that keeps it fun.
At the center of it all is an always enjoyable Isabelle Huppert. The direction from Salome is strong, keeping the pace moving, letting the carefree approach of it’s lead lift the material above a movie we may have seen before. You take an actress that has a history of performing in strong subject themed dramas, playing the romantic interests with sex appeal, or being a femme fatale, and you now ask her to have a fun time as a mom that secretly sells marijuana on the side. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Huppert is awesome in this, but she continues to fascinate me with just how good she can be. Mama Weed had me buzzing from the start.
MAMA WEED IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AT THE MUSIC BOX IN CHICAGO THIS WEEKEND
Written by: Leo Brady