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Wednesday, Mar 30 2016

Xavier Giannoli's 127-minute comedy Marguerite would have worked like gangbusters at a zippy 90 minutes, but it's a pleasant enough comedy-of-manners for most of its running time. Played with an open heart by Catherine Front, Marguerite Dumont — a name which can't not be a reference to the Margaret Dumont, Groucho Marx's favorite onscreen foil — is a wealthy society lady in 1921 France. She loves to sing opera for guests in her stately manor, but is unaware that she has a terrible voice because neither her devoted butler Mandelbos (Denis Mpunga) nor her less-devoted husband Georges (André Marcon) can bring themselves to shatter her delusion. When a proto-hipster journalist (Sylvain Dieuaide) turns her into a cause célèbre, she begins pursuing her dream of singing in an opera house for real — so Mandelbos brings on the washed-up and quite-queer Pezzini (Michel Fau) to give her the training she doesn't realize she so badly needs, but which won't help. The picture manages the tricky feat of laughing with her but not at her, even when she doesn't realize anyone's laughing at all, and is sympathetic toward her in a way that's uncommon for aspirational older women in movies. Meanwhile, the big-eyed Fau steals his scenes like prime Zero Mostel; somebody needs to put him in another Producers remake, stat.


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Sherilyn Connelly


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