This quaint French farce brings the best out of its star, Gemma Arterton.
In a postcard-pretty Normandy village captured with a lens cannily in thrall to that breezily quaint French lifestyle, an amusing literary twist is being spun. Fabrice Luchini plays a role that is the romantic flip-side to his cynically-driven English professor in François Ozon’s In The House. Therein, he encouraged a pupil to embed with a family in order to write about their personal life. In Gemma Bovery, his Martin Joubert is a Parisian-teacher-turned-provincial-baker who becomes obsessed with a married Englishwoman because she has (almost) the same name as Gustave Flaubert’s unhappy heroine.
Gemma Arterton plays Gemma Bovery who has upped sticks from London with her husband Charles (Jason Flemyng) and absently befriends her besotted neighbour. “In one second that meaningless little wave signalled the end of 10 years of sexual tranquility,” goes Luchini’s narration in that comically overwrought but touching way the French actor has perfected over the years. Arterton is shot by director Anne Fontaine via Martin’s hypnotised gaze. The sun bounces off floaty dresses that cling to her body. Arterton gives a very grounded performance that is the antithesis to the airy-fairy tortured romantic heroine that Martin is so desperate to cast her as. In the gap between reality and his wild fantasies lies the comedy.
Absurd comedy is ratcheted up a level when Gemma begins following a vaguely similar arc to her literary forebear. The indecently golden Niels Schneider slinks onto the scene as the castle-inhabiting, aristocratically-named, Hervé de Bressigny. This is all the evidence that Martin needs to fully believe that fiction is coming to life. His acerbic wife makes digs aplenty but only the audience can hear her. Fontaine is ruthless in the application of the philosophy that when a man sucks on a literary love heart, nothing short of a tragedy will choke it loose.
Published 21 Aug 2015