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2012 | 111 min | R | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 06 September, 2013
 31 May, 2013

Country of origin




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Screenshots from Populaire Blu-ray

Populaire Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, September 19, 2013

The French comedy “Populaire” is pure frosting. A lighthearted affair with an unusual premise, the picture coasts on its enormous reservoir of charm, with leads Romain Duris and Deborah Francois lighting up the screen, while period production elements create a candy-coated mood that supports the feature’s frothy intentions. Recalling the colorful zest of a Jacques Demy movie from the 1960s, “Populaire” is an entertaining, energetic effort, perhaps best appreciated for its dedication to the art of escapism as it utilizes romantic formula to inspire its own take on the competition film.

It’s the late 1950s, and Rose (Deborah Francois) is a frustrated young woman working for her distant father, dreaming of a better life in the city, hoping to avoid the pain of an arranged marriage. Practicing with a typewriter, Rose unearths a gift of fast fingers, finding herself skilled with hunt and peck typing. Applying for a secretary job with insurance man Louis (Romain Duris), Rose impresses her potential boss with her unusual typing speed, hired on the spot. While her administrative duties lack finesse, Louis has other plans for the Rose, entering her in a speed typing contest, assured of her potential in this bizarre gladiatorial arena. Embarking on an intense training regimen of piano lessons, physical fitness, and typing assignments, Rose is whipped into shape, honing her atypical approach to the process while growing closer to Louis, who’s involved in his own drama with his best friend’s wife, Marie (Berenice Bejo).

Although it has every invitation to become a bracingly silly picture, “Populaire” is no farce. Director Regis Roinsard takes the premise with some degree of seriousness, constructing a bright ode to the longing heart, focusing on Rose’s desire to better herself in a chauvinist world, using the typewriter as her ticket to bigger and better things. Desperate for a job that’ll take her out of her domestic doldrums, Rose is ambitious and clever, sparking Louis’s interest in her typing ability, noticing a woman who could be shaped into a champion, feeding into his viciously competitive nature. The story has the potential for a cuteness overload (Louis eventually demands that Rose move in with him, leading to a few stray underwear entanglements), yet Roinsard maintains his composure, keeping the characters argumentative as they gradually transform from partners to lovers, following a traditional romantic comedy arc.

The 1950s setting is explore in full, heightened with precision by the production, which plays up the fashion and frolic of the era, filling the frame with stylish costuming and cinematographic splendor. The colors here are divine, recalling the finer points of “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” as Roinsard keeps the visual elements lively to preserve the picture’s spirit. “Populaire” is all about symmetry, bold hues, and bright faces, finding Duris and especially Francois (who fits so perfectly in this era of glamour, it’s frightening) aptly cast in the lead roles, sharing a plucky chemistry that takes a surprising detour into sensuality -- the director adding a steamy sex scene to make sure the audience is paying attention to this otherwise wholesome endeavor. The interplay is finger-snap tight, yet “Populaire” is all about the exactness of reaction, watching the leads take in the strain of competition, the pressure of flirtation, and the thrill of connection. There’s fine acting all around, yet the actors are more impressive as silent figures in this chic playground.

Roinsard works toward a Big Game finale, where Rose faces the finger-flying wrath of the fastest typist in the world, finding her newfound fame (she becomes a rock star in the typing realm, with adoring fans and endorsements) challenged by the pressure of performance while Louis struggles to make sense of his scattered feelings. Again, the production teases cliché while retaining its own personality, overcoming formula by keeping matters so breezy.

“Populaire” is pure confection, though not in an irritating manner. Staying true to itself, the movie remains focused on its entertainment value, successfully recapturing an older cinematic style with a contemporary touch. It’s a gorgeous picture that’s highly amusing, allowing viewers to lose themselves in the fantasy of love, rivalry, and typing. Yes, typing. Any film that can make typewriters as cool as hot rods deserves a look.

Starring: Romain Duris, Déborah François, Bérénice Bejo
Director: Régis Roinsard

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