Fans of actor Juliette Binoche are sure to enjoy her latest offering, How to Be A Good Wife.
The movie allows Binoche and its other stars, Noémie Lvovsky and Yolande Moreau, to show their comic timing.
How to Be a Good Wife tells of Paulette Van Der Beck (Binoche) and her husband Robert (François Berléand), who have been running Van der Beck’s School of Housekeeping and Good Manners in rural Alsace, for over two decades. Paulette’s eccentric sister-in-law Gilberte (Moreau) and the school’s communist-fearing, ex-Resistance nun Marie-Therese (Lvovsky) also live in and teach at the school.
The school has always trained teenagers to be perfect French housewives, which as well as cooking and tending to all domestic matters, also means being totally subservient to their husbands.
However by 1967, the year in which the film is set, attitudes are changing and women are no longer willing to accept such roles.
As a result of falling enrolments the school is facing difficult times. The situation becomes more perilous when Robert dies as a result of a rather unfortunate accident. It seems he had a gambling problem and the school is facing bankruptcy. Enter André (Edouard Baer) Paulette’s long-lost first love, who also happens to be in charge of the local bank.
Her interactions with André force Paulette to question her beliefs and attitudes in an ever changing world. At the same time her attitude towards Robert suggests she didn’t necessarily ‘practice what she preached’ during her married life!
While much of the film highlights the challenges facing Paulette and Gilberte, the loves, lives and attitudes of several of the school’s students are also examined in brief.
It’s in these scenes How to Be a Good Wife’s writer and director Martin Provost, who has a history of producing serious-minded female portraits in movies such as Séraphine and Violette, seems more comfortable.
While described as a comedy, the movie doesn’t offer many laugh out loud moments. However thanks to the performance of the three leads, especially Binoche, the movie does have a light-hearted feel and is entertaining. The scenery is another drawcard, while depending on your tastes, the final musical scene is either a highlight or rather odd.
How to Be A Good Wife officially opens on Boxing Day in cinemas around Australia with advanced screenings are being held over the next two weekends. Visit the How to Be a Good Wife website for more information.
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