Looking For Hortense (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner08/08/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Watchable French drama with a strong script and superb performances from Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas, though the unfocussed plot is ultimately a little underwhelming.

What's it all about?
Directed by Pascal Bonitzer, Looking For Hortense (or Cherchez Hortense, original language fans) is set in present-day Paris and stars Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas as business teacher Damien and theatre director Iva, a married couple whose lives are becoming stale now that their adolescent son (Marin Orcand Tourres) is growing up. Iwa, in particular, finds her loyalty to Damien severely tested when her attractive lead actor (Arthur Igual) makes a move on her.

At the same time, Iwa's brother Marco (Francis Leplay) pressurises her to get Damien to ask his dismissive, yet influential father (Claude Rich) to help with a visa for a Serbian friend named Zorica. His failure to speak to his father about the issue causes further problems in his marriage, particularly when he discovers that Zorica is actually Aurore (Isabelle Carre), a charming young waitress he has recently met by chance.

The Good
Jean-Pierre Bacri is excellent as Damien, whose business-related language abilities somehow always fail him when it comes to his personal life; he also has a nice line in comically bewildered dumbfoundedness. Kristin Scott Thomas is equally good as Iwa, though her subplot is disappointingly ignored by the script, since the story unfolds largely from Damian's point of view.

There's also strong support from Carre and Tourres, while Claude Rich is very funny as Damian's father and, in what must surely be a nod to fans of TV's Spiral, Philippe Duclos delivers an enjoyable cameo as a powerful judge (which he plays exactly the same way he does on TV and with the built-up entrance Bonitzer gives him, that's presumably not a coincidence).

The Bad
The script is apparently based on a true story, which may account for the relative lack of plot. With that in mind, the film convincingly pulls off the mutual attraction between Damien and Zorica/Aurore, despite their difference in age and there's an engaging level of humour running throughout; one particular comic highlight involves Damien's father casually declaring that he's been bisexual all his life and flirting outrageously with a Korean waiter.

The only real problem with the film is that the story is overly weighted in Damien's favour; Kristin Scott Thomas' character gets particularly short shrift in this regard and pretty much disappears halfway through the film as a result, whereas the film would have been much more emotionally engaging if it had adequately explored both sides of their marriage.

Worth seeing?
Looking For Hortense is an enjoyable, gently humorous French drama enlivened by strong performances and a sharply written script. Worth seeing.

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Looking For Hortense (12A)
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Content updated: 24/10/2017 01:24

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