8 Women

(8 Femmes)

What happens when a renowned French director brings together some of France's greatest living actresses? If the results are anything like 8 Women, then it is a decidedly mixed bag. Director Francois Ozon (Under the Sand, Water Drops on Burning Rocks) assembled an impressive cast of eight women, spanning many generations of women from French cinema. They assemble together for an adaptation of Robert Thomas' play, by Ozon and Marina de Van (Under the Sand, Alias), a screwball whodunit comedy that was most likely intended to be light and fluffy. Unfortunately, the main emotion that Ozon generates in people watching 8 Women is bewilderment. Is this supposed to be funny? Are parts of this purposely bad?

The death of Marcel sets events in motion. He lives in a large house off in the country, now isolated from everybody else because of the snow. He was the only man living in the house, surrounded by a large number of women, who find themselves at a loss due to his death. His older daughter Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen, The Beach, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries) is returning home for the holidays from college, and takes up the role of ad hoc investigator. A few clues cause the women to realize that the murderer is one of them, which causes a cascade of accusations and revelations. Before the movie is over, each woman has a dark secret revealed, as well as a motive and opportunity to have killed Marcel. Everybody is suspect, from Marcel's wife Gaby (Catherine Deneuve, The Musketeer, Dancer in the Dark) to the new housekeeper Louise (Emmaneuelle Beart, Les Destinees, La Buche), to Col. Mustard.

Then, there's Gaby's ill-tempered sister Augustine (Isabelle Huppert, Merci Pour Le Chocolat, Les Destinees), her mother Mamy (Danielle Darrieux, Tomorrow's Another Day, Emilie est Partie), her other daughter Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier, My Wife is an Actress, Children's Play), the other housekeeper Chanel (Firmine Richard, One 4 All, Riches, Belles et Cruelles), and finally, Marcel's estranged sister Pierette (Fanny Ardent, Change-Moi ma Vie, No News From God). 8 Women retains somewhat of a playful tone until Ozon does something really bizarre; he has his cast break out into song. The music begins, and the singing starts, and everybody watching collectively scratches their heads. The singing is not that great, the songs are not particularly memorable or meaningful, and the choreography is plain bad.

One of the worst parts of this movie is that it requires little of its impressive cast. It just requires them to run around and accuse each other. 8 Women would work if it achieved the playful, zany feeling that Ozon is going for, but it never quite makes it there. It's sad to say, but the movie nears the point of tiring after it becomes clear that at one point or another, each person will come under suspicion. It's a little too long for its own good, and one wishes that the shenanigans would end and Ozon would just pony up and tell everyone who killed Marcel.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 43 minutes, French with English subtitles, Rated R for some sexual content.

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