Lowdown: A French country girl becomes top a contender at speed typing competitions.
Having recently reviewed the Australian movie Paper Planes, Populaire feels like its French speaking replica. It really is the same story told to the exact same feel good formula: the unlikely candidate rises up to the occasion and wins world recognition through some competitive bizarre feat. The differences are directly related to the place of origin: while the Aussie version deals with a kid recovering from a trauma, the French is all about the clash of chauvinism and feminism. Where the movie stands on that continuum is entirely unclear, but hey, this is a French movie so what can one expect?
Taking place shortly after World War 2, we focus on Rose (Déborah François, who is actually Belgium). Rose is a country bumpkin girl from Middle of Nowhere, France, who breaks the mould and seeks more in life. In effect, given her circumstances, she’s a feminist.
So she moves to Paris and applies to a job as a secretary to Louis (Romain Duris), an attractive guy carrying a bit of a baggage off the war. Through this and that, Rose gets the job; it quickly becomes clear she’s not that good at it, at least from Louis’ point of view, but the latter seeks redemption through Rose’s fantastic speed with the typewriter. And thus starts off a sort of a My Fair Lady affair featuring a Louis trying to make something out of Rose, as in a faster typist, while what is really taking place is Rose making something out of Louis. And yeah, expect all the usual romantic shenanigans between the much older man and the young girl to take place – this is a French movie, in case you haven’t notice. Plus this whole speed typing competitions thing.
As mentioned, the main point of contention with Populaire is its chauvinism. It makes the most of the cards it was dealt with: while we see that good looking girl acting as the older man’s assistant as a rather chauvinistic affair, that was progress at the time. While we would now look at a "women only" career as fast typists archaic, the mere fact women had access to the workplace through their typewriter was progress – at the time. Yet we still have ourselves a movie where a woman’s redemption is dependent on a man saving her, even if the reverse applies just the same (albeit with the man always being in a superior position, power wise).
Vive la France.
Overall: Not a bad romantic comedy that makes the most of the tension created by feminism. A pleasant 3 out of 5 crabs affair.