Film Review: Populaire (2012)
Occasion: Friday Film with Friends (as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival)
Set in hyper-styled 1950s Normandy, France, Populaire‘s heroine Rose (François) has two choices in life: get married or become a secretary.
The film is a simplistic and perhaps naive treatment of a woman’s lot in that era, lacking the social commentary which may have allowed it to be more thought-provoking. Seeking to escape her controlling (but loving) father and her un-glamorous country life, Rose never considers that the world could offer her anything more than a job as some man’s secretary and she never displays any ambitions beyond the feminine stereotypes imposed upon her by the film’s creators.
The focus on speed typing contests is however interesting; these types of competitions have existed since the turn of the century and titles have been won by members of both sexes. In Populaire an array of bespectacled, wasp-waisted, immaculately coiffed, nimble-fingered type-queen wannabes vie assiduously to become the fastest typist in the world. The contests unfold with hilarity, as over-eager fans cheer on their pursed-lipped idols, while the men exchange bets on the sidelines.
Populaire is an enjoyable, if somewhat light film. Stylish and charming, its carefree attitude allows for plenty of genuine laughs and heart-warming moments as the character’s relationships evolve. However Populaire provides the audience with nothing new or noteworthy and its willingness to pigeonhole its female lead disappoints and frustrates.
Directed by Régis Roinsard
Starring Déborah François, Romain Duris, Féodor Atkine, Bérénice Bejo and Shaun Benson
Cinematography by Guillaume Schiffman and costumes designed by Charlotte David