Potiche (translated as trophy wife) focuses on just that – a trophy wife of a wealthy umbrella factory boss. Spending her days juggling jogging and general rattling round the house, said trophy wife Mrs. Pujol dotes on her cheating husband. It’s telling that not once do we see her enjoying her time as trophy wife, sitting doing nothing in her over-sized house. When we meet her she returns from her run and sets about cleaning the house, a task her husband soon scolds her for. In this she highlights his hypocrisy; if she is expected to stay at home all day but not expected to clean, what exactly is she to do?
Her answer comes after her husband’s workforce goes on strike, driven to action by poor pay and even poorer treatment. Driven ill by the stress, her husband is deemed too sick to run the company and Mrs. Pujol hesitantly steps up to temporarily take his place. Her strength and popularity soon calms the conflict and the company soon looks set to profit exponentially.
While the crux of the basic storyline hangs on the umbrella company, Potiche itself focuses on much more than business matters. Somehow managing to examine the concept of a woman’s place in 1970’s France without getting bogged down in its socio-political themes, Potiche benefits largely from the outstanding Catherine Deneuve. She plays both comfortable housewife (who is allowed to do no chores whatsoever) and company leader to perfection and when she reveals she intends to run for parliament it feels like a natural progression, a progression against the male obstacles in her life. Even the mayor, the great Gérard Depardieu, a man enamoured with Mrs. Pujol, poses a threat to her aspirations and yet she rises above him in a powerful revelation about the power of her sexuality.
The film’s light-heartedness compliments the statements the film makes whilst its revelations and flashbacks add a neat finish to he film. In its use of tongue-in-cheek humour it attacks mysoginism and highlights the strength of female empowerment through highlighting the idiocy of the men in the film.
Potiche‘s shots, styles and lighting are nigh flawless and makes for interesting viewing. The fact that it ends on a song only heightens the enjoyment because, let’s face it, there’s no better way to go out.
Best performance: Catherine Deneuve.
Best drawing: The kid’s machine gun drawing.
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