Huppert is subtle and smart in this clever French crime caper about a working woman who sees an opportunity and takes advantage of it. The story centers on her heist of a huge cache of hashish to get money to help someone else as well as herself. This film keeps you on the edge of your seat with a series of situations wondering if she’ll get caught. She works as an interpreter for a Paris Police detective that she’s also dating. It’s a serious detective story laced with light comedy. You can almost see the wheels turning in her head as she strategizes her next moves.
Isabel Huppert is an award winning French actress who was nominated for an Academy award for Best Actress in Elle in 2016. She is known for serious dramatic roles that have to do with morality and this film is no exception.
Writer/ Director Jean-Paul Salomé, based the film on the novel, “The Godmother,” by Hannelore Cayre who co-wrote the script. It was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay for a César Award (the French Oscar). Huppert plays Patience Portefeux. She is a French-Arabic interpreter for the Paris Police narcotics unit translating the communications between the criminals involved in the biggest drug deals in the city. Her boss, Philippe (Hippolyte Girardot) is also her boyfriend who is obviously in love with her, wanting a more serious relationship.
Patience has too may other responsibilities on her plate. She’s behind in the rent on her own apartment and months in arrears paying for the care of her ailing, and demanding mother, (Liliane Rovère), in a home for the elderly. She has become friends and is grateful for the extra care her mother’s gets from her nurse, Kadidja (Farida Ouchani) in the home.
When she hears Kadidja’s voice talking Arabic to her son in a wiretaps’s translating regarding a big drug deal, she decides to get involved. At first, it’s just to protect her friend’s son, but then she devises a plan to get possession of the huge stash of hash for two reasons. One, she can protect the young man, and two, she knows enough about drug deals to move the drugs to get the money she needs for herself.
Huppert is slight and small, and seeing her move huge, heavy, wrapped blocks of Hash to store them is very amusing. The actress got plenty of exercise making this film.
It gets even more complicated when her Boss/Boyfriend helps her adopt a retired drug sniffing dog presumably to keep her company. Patience really needs the dog to help in her criminal enterprise. That presents some awkward but funny situations. She devises a disguise, with a head scarf, long dress and big sunglasses, taking on the demeanor of an exotic Middle Eastern businesswoman, dragging around huge bags stuffed with drugs or cash. The meetings with her dim-witted accomplices to transfer both become a nightmare with all kinds of interference. Plus, she’s trying not to let anyone at the precinct know what she’s up to. It’s a cat and mouse, dog and detective game which director Jean-Paul Salomé choreographs and edits well to make it work.
In addition, there are some amusing scenes with Patience’s Chinese landlady, also very smart, who picks up on what Patience is up to. Her daughter’s wedding scene provides a messy turn and some unexpected laughs.
Huppert is a fine actress to begin with and is fun to watch. She appears to enjoy taking on this unexpected role for herself. She rarely shows any emotion, mostly staying calm with little facial expression, but just enough to show that she’s thinking at all times how to get out of each awkward situation.
We enjoyed seeing the US premiere of this film at the Music Box Theater in Chicago. Even though it has subtitles, they are easy to read, especially on the big screen. And watching Huppert work her low-key magic gives you an appreciation for her artistry. This film is one fun legal high.
Music Box Films 1 hour and 45 minutes
In select theaters
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