Chess hasn't been this sexy or subversive since The Thomas Crown Affair. A French film directed by Caroline Bottaro, Queen to Play follows a middle-aged hotel maid Hellene (Sandrine Bonnaire) who, after seeing a couple engage in some seriously, sexually tense chess on their hotel balcony, decides to take up the game. Her husband, a boatyard worker, isn't too enthusiastic about her new hobby, so she finds a partner and mentor in a man (Kevin Kline) for whom she works. He trains her, showing her strategy and insights into the game, which turn out to be convenient lessons for her life as well the life/chess symbolism at times seems a little too convenient and forced. Still, Hellene's obsession with improving her skills results in some healthy personal transformations as she makes it farther as a player than anyone assumed she could. Thus in many ways, Queen to Play is a great break from conventional chick flicks. But only if you can overlook some of the clunky motifs and metaphors.
Sun., Nov. 1, 2 p.m., 2009