When it comes to farce, nobody does it better than the French. That said, however, this tale of gender-switching and hitmen may not appeal to all viewers, with its cavalier approach to violence quite disconcerting.
Yolande Moreau is Louise, a middle-aged factory worker whose factory has just been closed around her. Not especially bright – in fact it’s often hard to know if she’s intellectually impaired – she and her workmates come up with a revenge plot that relies on the dubious skills of a hired ‘security consultant’ (Bouli Lanners as Michel). Louise and Michel’s quest will provide more than one surprise for each of them.
There are strong strands of farce intermingled with a more subtle humour that make Louise-Michel an enjoyable romp,along with several moments of outright absurdity in which the audience will laugh out loud. A further component of black comedy may be off-putting for some, and it is perhaps only in its latter stages that the level of discomfort outweighs the pleasurable comedy of the earlier film.
Louise-Michel relies heavily on the performances of Moreau and Lanners, and Lanners is particularly good in the early sequences in which his character demonstrates his ‘credentials’. His skill at physical comedy is evident in these scenes, and allows his character to be far more accessible to the audience than that of Louise. Moreau makes Louise amusing, if a little hard to actually like – she is far more withdrawn, and in some scenes Moreau simply can’t make her sympathetic enough for the audience to get behind.
It is in the third act that the film loses much of its good will, becoming a far darker experience full of absent-minded brutality. One scene in particular – more hinted at via audio of events occurring off-screen – borders on offensive, and the fine balance that must be maintained for characters of this type is lost. This is an unfortunate waste of the potential on view in the first two-thirds of the film.
At just 90 minutes, the film feels too long and one wonders whether the removal of several scenes may have allowed for a more successful experience. As it stands, however, Louise-Michel overstays its welcome in spite of its strong performances, and ends up simply disappointing.Rating: