Film Reviews

"Potiche" Serves as a Feminist Parable

As Suzanne, Catherine Deneuve plays the title role in Potiche, a 1970s period piece that translates as "trophy wife."

She is married to the smarmy, unfaithful Robert (Fabrice Luchini), whose primary attraction to Suzanne appears to have been motivated by the umbrella factory she inherited from her father, which Robert now controls with cold capitalist efficiency. Still lovely in her 60s, Suzanne is cheerfully resigned to serving her husband and living passively in his shadow ("Your job is to share my opinion," he condescends).

When Robert has a heart attack, she takes over the factory, and Suzanne puts her womanly wiles to work, making broad improvements to the business while gradually, casually revealing that she never really let her marriage hold her back. Like its heroine, Potiche is deceptively lightweight, its camp screwball fizziness giving way to a surprisingly cogent feminist parable in which the personal proves again and again to be the most volatile variable in the political.

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Karina Longworth