Marguerite: Film Review
Cast: Catherine Frot, Andre Macon, Sylvain Dieuaide, Christa Theret
Director: Xavier Giannoli
Hollywood's already brought us this tale and in a relatively short space of time in the form of Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep, but this French version of the same story is an eminently classier version.
This time it's 1920s Paris and it's the story of Marguerite Dumont, a wealthy woman who's a patron of the arts and opera. Imbued with the delusion that she's a good singer, her tone is less than aurally pleasant.
However, when a journalist Lucien Beaumont writes a review of her performance, Dumont misinterprets the barbs within and furthers her delusion of singing to the masses. So, deciding to organise a concert for others to enjoy, Dumont's dysfunctional belief deepens...
Marguerite is a different beast to the all together fluffier Florence Foster Jenkins.
Dividing the story up in to five chapters and setting the whole thing in some sumptuous period details is mightily beneficial.
Unlike the delayed gratification of its Hollywood counterpart, Marguerite wastes no time in showing off Dumont's dismal drone which helps make the film a different beast. Admittedly, there is still no fuller explanation as to why Dumont was encouraged to sing and why no-one took the time to be honest with her, but there are subtleties in this version that hint at the adage of never being cruel to someone face to face.
Unfortunately, if Frot delivers a stronger performance and a more heartbreaking approach in a slightly over-long film, some of the other side plots don't fare as well.
Theret is impressive as the singer brought in early on and a side-plot involving her career and potential relationship with Dieuaide's Beamount is torn asunder from the narrative with a few lines thrown in that make no sense and lead to too much for the audience to draw on.
Macon as the husband and Denis Mpunga as Mandelbos the house servant present nuanced turns as carers for Dumont; the former realising too late the damage his indulgence and laissez-faire attitude have wreaked. Elsewhere Mandelbos is clearly devoted to Dumont and it becomes his way into the film for the rest of us.
Ultimately, Marguerite's folie a deux attitude is more successful than Frears' broader take on the subject. Thankfully, a restrained performance from Frot, covered in earnestness and heart make her Dumont a character not a caricature (an important difference that Frears overlooked) and consequently makes Marguerite a film that gives more of a psychological take on an enigmatic subject.
Though admittedly, if I never hear a mangled version of The Queen of the Night aria again in my lifetime, it'll be too soon.