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.
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