Saturday, March 29, 2014

On My Way (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

On My Way

Francophiles rejoice! We have not seen the last of the iconic Catherine Deneuve who stars in "On My Way", a heartfelt and well acted comedy drama by director Emmanuelle Bercot.

Deneuve, who has played everything under the sun, from a tortured manicurist to an icy vampire, and has worked with the great surrealist Luis Bunuel in "Belle de Jour," gives another fine outing as a hassled restauranteur.

While this might seem like a flaccid scenario for a Deneuve film, attendre! The star gives it a charge of magical realism as she comes upon one eccentric kook after another.

Bettie is a former beauty queen and anxious chef who lives with her mom  (Claude Gensac). When the oppressed, yet still sultry Bettie gets the news that her married lover has flown the coop, Bettie goes bonkers and takes off at full tilt in her Mercedes. This scene with its swirling camera might bring to mind Deneuve's harried histrionics in "Repulsion", but here her heart is in the right place, free from gore.

 Bettie has a new insurmountable  craving for cigarettes so she takes refuge in the home of an old man to bum a smoke. He tells her of his haunted past.

Then Bettie gets a unexpected call from her absent daughter (the French singer Camille) who demands that she watch her son Charly (Nemo Schiffman).

In her travels, she is plagued by the weather and car trouble and has picaresque experiences with various ne'er do wells. Chief among them is the cloying and lazy Marco (Paul Hamy); Bettie loses her wherewithal and lands in bed with the slumberous Marco. She wakes with a start as the sun closes in upon her---an all seeing eye.

Just when Bettie exits from the wet octopus arms of Marco, she is hit by torrential rain and takes cover in a furniture store, guarded by a man who can't make any sense of this nervous woman.

Interspersed with these scenes are invasive and insidious reminders of Bettie's (or Deneuve's) celebrity past as a beauty queen and femme fatale.

These touches give the film its most meaningful adhesion, putting Deneuve in fine company with Gloria's Paulina Garcia and Toni Servillo of "The Great Beauty".

Bettie finally gets to the grandson and Nemo Schiffman does solidly, giving ample doses of savage brattiness, irreverence and emotion. Even as Deneuve babysits, our eyes are riveted by her legacy.

Deneuve commands the screen. And admirers of her psychological roles will be well pleased by a fainting spell as an infinite number of flashbulbs assault Bettie like a swarm of biting silverfish.

But all is not a parade of day terrors with "the ladies who lunch". We also see a smoldering Bettie who practically gobbles on the neck of a sour grandfather (Gerard Garouste)

When we see a manic Muriel, ranting and raving, events seem a shade a la von Trier, especially with the release of some rabbits escaping a sudden angry fire.

All is fittingly squelched with the conventional arrival of dinner and wine. And although it might be tempting to say 'ho hum', the tension in Bettie remains.

"On My Way" is an entertaining and satisfying road film, due in no small part to Catherine Deneuve's allure.

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