Lowdown: Chaos erupts when a housewife takes over factory management from her husband.
French director François Ozon is famous for creating films depicting powerful women (refer to 8 Women and Swimming Pool for reference). One can argue his films are all about the glorification of feminine power; if that is the case then 2010’s Potiche is no exception.
We follow a rich French family during the seventies. There is the wife (Catherine Deneuve), or rather the housewife, whose father created the umbrella company the family made its money of. Then there is the husband (Fabrice Luchini) that now runs the company and won’t take any shit from anyone, not even his wife. After all, she is there to serve him. They may be a family but they don’t really love one another, rather acting like some sort of a smooth corporation. Case in point: the husband’s mistress, which is – obviously – his secretary.
Then the husband gets embroiled in a work dispute at the factory that has him held by the employees. The company needs to continue running, so the unlikely figure of the wife takes over. Lo and behold! This housewife fares much better than her husband. With the aid of a union related representative (the famous Russian actor Gérard Depardieu) she satisfies the employees; she even brings her children on board. But then the husband wants his old place back, and the union guy has his own issues, and old family secrets pop up, and we have ourselves a movie!
I cannot say I was particularly thrilled by Potiche. I liked the statements it made on matters of feminism, but found the rest rather too boring. It is a case of a secrets & lies story told in order to point out the need for women to take the initiative they are so capable of taking. It could have also been a story better told, too. On the other hand, perhaps the lack of closure is a sign for superior, more realistic take on things? Perhaps Potiche is meant to depict the rise of contemporary feminism, whose story is still running in many a direction?
Best scene: The board directors meet in order to decide who will continue to manage the company, the husband or the wife. The secretary/mistress runs the vote counting like a Eurovision contest, which is rather funny, but the climax is when the daughter puts in her vote. Which reinforces my opinion that the most annoying kind of chauvinism is the one that comes from women themselves.
Overall: Potiche starts out well but turns too messy for me to be able to like. Despite the good intentions I can only give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.