Derek Winnert


This article was written on 30 May 2013, and is filled under Reviews.

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Populaire – Film Review


A bit of a do about nothing, Populaire still has style, wit, charm and kitsch appeal – plus loads of 1950s French retro look and atmosphere. Likeable films are rare enough, so let’s relish this one a little.

Deborah Francois plays (very nicely) ambitious, pertly pretty 21-year-old Rose Pamphyle, a wiz on the typewriter, who talks her way into an advertised secretary job with dapper insurance agency boss Louis Echard (Romain Duris, well smarmy). She’s not the best secretary in the world, but the deal is, she’ll get the job if she competes in a speed typing competition, and Louis will be her coach. A tough road lies ahead, but Rose is a keyboard champion, no doubt about it. First France, next step, the world!

It will comes a no big surprise that, though she’s engaged to a mechanic’s dull son, Rose secretly takes a shine to Louis, and of course he to her. They’re very prickly with each other at the start, he bossy, she brittle, and later adapt to each other’s little ways. We see a relationship developing, first strictly business, then… But that romcom issue’s for much later in the story.

Mixing the sports movie (if you imagine typing as a competition sport) with the romcom, the setup’s decently different. There’s an air of old-style sweetness about in the film’s atmosphere but happily it isn’t too sickly. The plot follows wildly predictable lines, with the outcome of course inevitable from the start, but that’s the whole deal with romcoms. And all the tip-tappy typing does become a tad repetitive. Bespectacled middle-aged women thumping typewriter keyboards really does have its limitations in the thrills department, compared to, say, a car race sports movie.

But the film holds firm, thanks to the two ideal central performances, especially the charismatic Francois’s, some good support from stalwarts like Miou Miou, and TLC handling from writer-director Regis Roinsard, for whom this affectionate film (his feature debut) is so obviously a labour of love. Then behold the marvellous set and costume designs, cinematography and score. Only the French could do a film like this. No one else would dare try, and even if they did, wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

Did they type out the script for Populaire on one of the many old typewriters we see in the movie? I hope so. Most of the film’s not inconsiderable Euro 13million must have gone on the typewriters!

(C) Derek Winnert 2013


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