Deneuve shines as the ‘trophy wife’

If you’re looking for an intelligent summer movie rather than the thrills and spills of a blockbuster then this is the film for you.

If you’re looking for an intelligent summer movie rather than the thrills and spills of a blockbuster then this is the film for you.

The title Potiche means trophy wife and Catherine Deneuve’s character Suzanne is just that, trapped in the gilded cage of a perfect house with no need to lift a finger. Her husband, Robert (Fabrice Luchini), runs the family umbrella factory which she brought to the marriage as a dowry and life seems, well, a little dull, especially if she turns a blind eye to his suspected infidelities.

But it’s the 70s and a time of industrial unrest, which even envelopes the family firm when workers take Robert hostage.

Suzanne takes charge, much to the disgust of her pampered daughter Joelle (Judith Godreche) – all Farrah Fawcett curls and pouts.


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Suzanne has some sympathy with the workers’ demands but needs to recruit the help of an old flame, the trade unionist Babin from the other side of the tracks, as a go-between.

He’s played by Gerard Depardieu as a gentle giant, hoping to rekindle more than an acquaintance with Suzanne.

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The couple enjoy a night out at the local hot-spot, much favoured by Robert, and their dance scene is to be savoured.

Potiche is a warm and funny tale about the worm that turns as Suzanne discovers management abilities she never knew she had and becomes emancipated, taking her husband’s PA and lover, played by Karin Viard, along for the feminist trip.

There is much to enjoy in this movie, which delivers its message with wit and humour and some fantastic acting.

It’s a sophisticated take on the struggle for workers’ rights and the emancipation of women – a French Made in Dagenham if you will – but there’s also much to enjoy if you have no interest in labour relations whatsoever.

The acting is superb and director Francois Ozon has a lot of fun with the 70s setting.

Cerificate 15, in French with English subtitles.

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