Marguerite – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

April 15, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
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Perhaps it is coincidence the heroine of this movie shares her name with Margaret Dumont, the woman who was the “straight man” in several Marx Brothers comedies and the oblivious butt of many jokes.

Director/ writer Xavier Giannoli ‘s muse was an American – more on her later – in this tale of a woman’s obsession to sing opera despite an obvious lack of talent.

At a magnificent home not far from Paris in 1921, an audience has gathered for an annual musical event to support a worthy cause. For some it is the first time they will hear its owner, Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot) sing.  When Marguerite’s turn comes, those in the know escape to another room. The rest listen in shock and then amusement, as she sings, vigorously but most definitely, off key. They still applaud her.

The extremely wealthy Marguerite is married to George (Andre Marcon) whom she adores and who cannot bear to hear her sing or make herself a laughing stock.  Their sumptuous home is strewn with photos of her in opera costumes which her butler/chauffeur Madelbos (Denis Mpunga) has taken. Frot (Haute Cuisine ) is wonderful as the beautiful but unhappy woman whose passion  for singing makes her feel alive.

It would devastate her to be told the truth and it’s cruel that she is shielded from it. There is nobody with the courage or motivation to tell her.

When gate-crashing young journalist Lucien Beaumont (Sylvain Dieuaide) hears her sing, he mischievously praises her performance in his newspaper.  Emboldened by the review, Marguerite decides to give a public recital to raise money for war orphans.   George tries to dissuade her but she is determined and hires failing opera star Atos Pezzini (Michel Fau) to prepare her.

Madelbos appears to be her protector but hands out earplugs when she practices. It is poignant that Marguerite would give up music if she had her husband’s love and by the time he comes to cherish her, it’s far too late.

Setting and clothes are dazzling and the interplay of comedy and drama suits the improbabilities that abound.  Giannoli was inspired by the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy American with a bad voice who believed that she should sing in public.  But that story is another film.

4/5 Rated M 127mins In French with subtitles Opens April 21

Starring Catherine Frot, Andre Marcon, Michel Fau, Christa Theret

Directed by Xavier Giannoli

Written by Xavier Giannoli with Marcia Romano

 

 

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