Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2024 4:38 pm 
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Fourth collaboration between Dany Boon and former music hall great Line Renaud

This is the fourth collaboration between Dany Boon and former music hall great Line Renaud, and one of them, 2008's Welcome to the Sticks ("Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis") is the biggest box office hit in modern French movie history. Unknown to Americans, but Renaud will be familiar to them from appearing as her glowing, radiant self in the popular French Netflix hit "Call My Agent."

From Oscar-nominated filmmaker Christian Carion (Joyeux Noel), Driving Madelaine is the story of Madeleine (Line Renaud), an aging woman with a surprising past who hails a cab driven by Charles (Dany Boon) for what's likely to be her last drive accross Paris before settling into her retirement home. The two strike up an unexpected friendship as they share memories, hopes and laughs along what becomes a very unhurried journey in which Charles lightens up and Madeleine shares the story of her life.

Madeleine asks Charles to say what age he thinks her and he tries "eighty." No, she says proudly, "I'm 91." Actually the actress was older than that when they made this trip down memory lane. She's 95 now - and what a charmer, though Charles, in a terrible mood over personal hassles, can't manage a smile at first. It will come. Madeleine is a charmer, and she has a great story to tell. A fall, a broken bone, has led mmedical authorities to advise her to move into an "establishment" with medical aides - a retirement home - and this taxi ride is the trip from the house she's giving up to that place where is destined to end her days. Along the way, she chooses several detours, and he adds some of his own. It's all on the meter, and easy going: Charles can't complain as he grumpiness is dissolved by the warmth of this fascinating women.

Driving Madeleine at 91 minutes is not a strain on the attention and will be a pleasant pastime for older audiences with a penchant for handkerchief movies, as Phil Hoad comments in his 3/5 star Guardian review as life-told-in-flashbacks movies go, this one feels "well earned" enough, mostly because of its two stars' "sincere performances." All is not first rate here in the writing-directing package, thought there are compensations. As Stéphane Joby wrote for Journal de Dimanche,, "The script for this comedy-drama is unsurprising, the flashbacks heavy-handed and the direction lackluster, but the whole works beautifully thanks to the grace of its onboard duo." And there isa wealth of human emotion here, and a happy ending when Charles' woes are righted from beyond the grave. Alice Isaaz ably steps into the shoes of a young Madeleine; Jérémie Laheurte is the abuse husband, Ray; Julie Delarme is Larine, Charles' wife; Elie Kaempfen briefly appears as Matt, the GI who is the three-month love of Madeleine's young life. It is right to show the couple dancing at the end in this wildly romantic film.

Driving Madeleine/Une belle course ("A lovely ride"), 91 mins., debuted at Angoulême Aug. 23, 2022, also showing at Toronto. Opening in Sept. 2022, it received mediocre notices in the French press with an AlloCiné press rating of 3.0 (60%). It opens in New York and Los Angeles Fri., Jan. 12, 2024 and in theaters nationwide Jan. 19.

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