Marguerite

Review by Sophie Monks Kaufman @sopharsogood

Directed by

Xavier Giannoli

Starring

André Marcon Catherine Frot Michel Fau

Anticipation.

Well-received in its native France.

Enjoyment.

The heart is there but the rest of the body is lacking.

In Retrospect.

A timeless tune sung in an average voice.

American socialite and soprano Florence Foster Jenkins is the subject of this elegant French drama.

Marguerite is poignant to anyone interested in the painful gulf that can exist between an individual’s creative ambition and their talent. Xavier Giannoli gives a ’20s Parisian spin to the case of wealthy American society singer, Florence Foster Jenkins – who is receiving her own biopic starring Meryl Streep. Given the extreme empathy that Giannoli shows for his laughing-stock leading lady, it feels cruel to report that his life, while not fully imitating his art, possesses a shadow of a parallel. Marguerite suffers from a storytelling tameness that erodes the power of its subject.

At the centre of the film is a hugely sympathetic performance by Catherine Frot. Marguerite’s delusions about the quality of her singing continue because of a conspiracy of silence. Husband Georges is distracted by his affair, manservant Madelbos wants to make his name from her farcical fame and is also blackmailing a singing teacher. Although she conducts herself with grace and discretion, Frot’s sad eyes and sorrowful pauses suggest that she feels the personal disappointments that surround her. The more acutely this is felt, the more important singing her heart out becomes. And so, the tragicomedy of her situation intensifies.

Giannoli has spent effort to recreate the decadent furnishings and costumes of a wealthy woman from this era. Yet there is a stultifying emptiness to the cavernous interiors and an inertia to the story’s pacing which causes nearly all scenes to drag. Frot’s bad singing is a joy that re-energises the people watching inside and outside the film. The entertainment value of her inability is almost an art unto itself, although her innocence as to the audience’s true source of pleasure makes her a victim of exploitation.

Published 18 Mar 2016

Tags: Catherine Frot Xavier Giannoli

Anticipation.

Well-received in its native France.

Enjoyment.

The heart is there but the rest of the body is lacking.

In Retrospect.

A timeless tune sung in an average voice.

Read More

Mia Madre – first look review

By Sophie Monks Kaufman

Nanni Moretti’s chronicle of the death of a filmmaker’s mother is continuously out of thematic focus.

Things to Come – first look review

By Adam Woodward

Isabelle Huppert stars as a woman calmly losing control in Mia Hansen-Løve’s life-affirming fifth feature.

Evolution – first look review

By David Jenkins

Lucile Hadžihalilović makes a triumphant return with this experimental surgical horror (with added starfish).

What are you looking for?

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, LWLies has been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design