Remember that meme of a football player saying “They had us in the first half, not gonna lie”?! Well, director and writer Nicolas Bedos, had me in the first five minutes, not gonna lie. The opening scene, with a bunch of aristocrats sitting around a dinner table using racial slurs to objectify the butlers, turns out to be just a trailer to pitch a new tv-series for a streaming service. Phew. Grumpy family man, Victor (Daniel Auteuil – ‘Qui m’aime me suive!‘), isn’t a fan of technology and doesn’t understand how what he just witnessed on his son’s tablet is nowadays called “entertainment”.

After another fight with his wife, Victor finds himself on the street, and with nowhere to go, the 60ish techphobic struggling cartoonist has nothing left but an invitation to experience a new kind of entertainment. Using a combination of theatrical artifice and historical re-enactment, entrepreneur Antoine’s (Guillaume Canet – ‘In the Name of the Land‘) company gives its clients the opportunity to delve back into the period of their choice. Victor decides to relive the most memorable week of his existence, 40 years earlier, when he met the love of his life…

This monetised version of ‘The Truman Show‘ is what the entire story of ‘La Belle Époque‘ revolves around. With actors reenacting a certain self-chosen moment in Victor’s past, the director of this stage play has some sort of personal connection to Victor and wants to make sure everything is as detailed as possible. Antoine’s former gilfriend Margot (Doria Tillier – ‘Yves‘) is the star of this story, but when things get a bit too realistic, our puppeteer sees himself getting more and more jealous up to the point he doesn’t know where to stop and certain players start to improvise their actions.

Bedos (this is his follow up to his 2017 directorial debut ‘Mr and Mrs Adelman‘) has created something so magical, romantic, entertaining and typically French. The atmosphere, set design, music, editing, script… everything just works from start to.. almost finish. The ending isn’t quite as strong as the rest of his film, being a bit too predictable for my taste. But for what it’s worth, La Belle Époque is that massive feel good film you hardly ever see anymore, filled with hope and love. Don’t be surprised if Hollywood gets their hands on this, and tries to remake it into something that’s hardly worth mentioning – and probably starring Tom Hanks.

The entire cast is phenomenal. Tillier brings such a presence to the screen, that balances on her male counterparts in different ways that it becomes a joy to withhold whenever she’s in a scene. Canet and Auteuil are both such vibrant characters in everything they do, they’re just incredible in their respective roles, both going through personal journeys that make them realise there’s more to their lives than what it is right now. And although Fanny Ardant (‘Perdrix‘) doesn’t get as much screen time as Victor’s wife, she does impress with making us understand her layered character’s actions and behaviour.

Bedos’ heartwarming film is the crowdpleaser you’ve been waiting for. Directed, written and executed superbly, ‘La Belle Époque‘ is a satisfying French romantic comedy that lets you escape reality – and that’s just what we need in times like these.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Rialto Distribution will release ‘La Belle Époque’ 13 August in cinemas all over Australia. (Victoria will follow at a later date)

Review – ‘La Belle Époque’

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist), August 10, 2020. Rating: M. Running time: 115 min.

PRODUCTION: A Rialto Distribution release and a Canal+, Ciné+, France Télévisions participation in association with La Banque Postale Image 12, Indéfilms 7, SG Image 2017, Palatine Etoile 16, uFund of a Les Films du Kiosque production. Executive producers: François Kruas, Denis Pineau-Valencienne, Adrian Politowski.

CREW: Director/screenplay: Nicolas Bedos. Editors: Anny Danché, Florent Vassault. Cinematography: Nicolas Bolduc. Music: Nicolas Bedos, Anne-Sophie Versnaeyen.

WITH: Daniel Auteuil, Guillaume Canet, Doria Tillier, Fanny Ardant, Pierre Arditi, Denis Podalydès, Michaël Cohen, Lizzie Brocheré, Thomas Scimeca, Sandrine Moaligou.

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