France thinks she is a journalist, but in reality, she is a shallow troublemaker and aspiring demagogue. This is France movie Review and Movie Summary.
Despite having the blessing of the Pope of Trash, it can be challenging to enjoy the bitter French black comedy “France” because it primarily fusses over one particular fake media personality while also beginning and generally continuing as a general critique of French mass media.
Léa Seydoux portrays France de Meurs, a talk show host who is after power. France thinks she is a journalist, but in reality, she is a shallow troublemaker and aspiring demagogue.
When it comes to France, writer/director Bruno Dumont (“Outside Satan,” “Joan of Arc”) only pretends to be an expert in a personality-driven system of fake populist reporting, which she has actually internalized and taken at face value.
After accidentally hitting a motorcyclist with her car, Seydoux’s character struggles to alter her self-perception. But by the time we met her, France was probably already doomed.
Dumont doesn’t seem to care enough about Seydoux’s character to actively develop her, but his interest in France is generally more ambiguous than it is strictly critical. More than any particular aspect of France, he appears to like the idea of France.
Dumont shows Seydoux’s anti-heroine, a self-absorbed media personality who interviews political pundits and also inserts herself into human interest stories on her well-liked TV news program, the kitchen sink’s worth of contempt in the opening scenes of “France.”
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France brazenly questions a politician at a press conference about the “insurrectional state of France,” asking if he is simply “heedless or powerless.” He answers her query with an excessive amount of deference as if her notoriety required his careful consideration.
The exchange of immodest and brazenly vulgar gestures between France and her yes-woman producer Lou (Blanche Gardin) resembles that of schoolchildren passing notes without concern for repercussions.
Dumont continues to mock France and her safe social/professional bubble by following her at work and then at home. At work, France avoids aggressive pundits with the same ease and speed with which she directs and develops on-the-spot interview segments for her TV show.
France adores her son Jo (Gatan Amiel) at home and avoids her envious husband Fredric (Benjamin Biolay). These two equally loveless worlds inevitably collide in a series of tiresome episodes that only highlight France’s delusory belief that she is as special as she is media-savvy.
France is approached so frequently for on-the-spot selfies and autographs that she is inevitably drawn in by two men who don’t seem interested in her celebrity.
There’s Charles Castro (Emanuele Arioli), a Latin scholar and would-be suitor whose motivations are so clear that he’s ultimately funnier as a running gag (he just won’t go away!) than as a supporting character (but maybe he really loves her!).
Then there’s Baptiste (Jawad Zemmar), the aforementioned motorcyclist who becomes an uneasy target for France’s charity (his parents are unable to work, and he must support them!).
Dumont repeatedly reminds us how little he thinks of France. Her cardinal sin isn’t that she’s too good at her job, though that does make her an easy target for our scorn.
What makes France a typical Dumont martyr is that she has no idea what makes her job—and the unnaturally un-nuanced, demeaning point-of-view that it confirms—so despicable: that the media has conditioned us to accept that seeing the world in simplistic, soundbite-friendly terms is normal.
France is a product of that system, and she will never truly change because, once again, she has no idea how to cope.
Rather, she’ll keep unwittingly demeaning her interview subjects and insulting her audience because no matter how many personal and public crises threaten France, she’ll never be thrown out of her circle of influence. She isn’t Alan Partridge.
As is customary, Dumont is a more interesting director than a screenwriter, particularly when he blocks and holds a shot long enough to imply that there’s a lot more going on than his ignoble on-screen characters can possibly say, let alone be aware of. But, on the other hand, spending so much time with France, a consistently hollow character, can be exhausting.
Seydoux’s typically sensitive performance only hints at France’s inner life and qualities. Because every time France comes dangerously close to seeing a potentially unpleasant side of herself, she is diverted by airhead enablers who keep her self-conscious but unaware.
Later in the film, Lou tries to console France by telling her that she is an “icon,” and that icons are “made of mud.” That is the solipsistic point around which Dumont circles France throughout “France,” with a negligible variation. In theory, that kind of self-victimization could be amusing; in practice, not so much.