Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lost woman doesn't have to be

Emmanuelle Bercot’s On My Way (opening Friday at The Maple Theater) isn’t an entirely new theme for a film. It’s about age and in particular aging women. Still, it’s worth another take. And this time with the top French female actress of the late 20th century Catherine Deneuve. Deneuve as Bettie is down on her luck. Her family restaurant is not making enough money (puzzling because it always seems busy). Her lover has jilted her. She’s early 60-something and kind of washed-up in society’s view and possibly her own. (Deneuve is actually 70.) To clear her mind she drives into the countryside. But the trip doesn’t end, as her quest for cigarettes turns into a drive across France to reunite her grandson with her daughter. The odyssey, though, constantly reinforces her loss of control, low self-esteem, and penurious state. And she’s treated to the stereotypical catcalls for an aging woman. “Move your fat ass” says an enraged man when Bettie tries to aid his beaten wife. And later, at a photo shoot of former beauty queens of which she's one, the 30-something male photographer tells the women to “hold your tummies’s the 60-sexy look.” But there’s praise too. Bettie one night ends up at a roadhouse, gets drunk, and wakes up in bed with a young buck who tells her that in her youth “you must have been stunning.” Deneuve in fact is still a supremely good looking woman and in her seventh decade has a great face, reminding me a little of Adele owing to her minor weight gain. So, is this a movie about how older women are treated? Probably, though it seems a bit clichéd. Deneuve acts with a cast of largely non-actors and the director’s son Nemo Schiffman plays pre-teen Charly, whom Bettie takes on the trip to meet her bratty daughter Muriel (Camille), the latter who despises her mom for caring more about her “marinades” than her family. Ironically Bettie is the focus of a lot of people’s anger yet she seems innocent, suitably well-intentioned, and simply trying to figure things out. Deneuve has always been great with for displaying subtle mood shifts. The cast comes off as pro even though they're amateurs. But I’m tired of road movies and of women trying to find themselves. I’m also tired of out of control kids, and the village reunion at the end of the film is as hackneyed a French scene as you can imagine, though I guiltily loved it. The story line I would have preferred? Bettie goes back to the restaurant, puts the books in order, harangs her staff, and kicks the restaurant up a notch, falling in love with the great guy at the same time. Now that’s a woman finding herself.

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