The Housekeeper

(Une Femme de Menage)


Jacques is a lonely man. His apartment is a dump after his wife left him for another man. He does work as a sound engineer, but goes home alone at night and blasts the classical music. It's coming to the point where he realizes he needs to change his ways, and the first step is to clean his apartment. Jacques (Jean-Pierre Bacri, The Taste of Others, Place Vendome) sees an ad for a housekeeper and hires her. Laura (Emilie Dequenne, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Rosetta) is nothing what he expected. The Housekeeper is the latest film from acclaimed French director Claude Berri, Hard Off, Lucie Aubrac) and is based on the novel by Christian Oster.

It's a cute little film that never really goes anywhere, but is amusing to watch. Initially, Laura cleans once a week for Jacques, changing most of her habits to meet his exacting standards. They're friendly, but not exactly friends. Then one day, Laura confides in Jacques that she broke up with her boyfriend and needs a place to stay, and Jacques reluctantly allows her to stay at his place for a while. Their relationship quickly changes from employer/employee to one that allows more intimate contact. It's a classic case of somebody falling head over heels for somebody else.

Laura's personality is one of all or nothing. When she falls for a man, she falls hard. She is madly in love with Jacques, and wants to do anything to make him happy. Jacques is far more ambivalent. For most of the film, he doesn't really care. He enjoys the sex, and the fact that his house is clean, but doesn't know Laura well enough to say he loves her. What Jacque doesn't realize is that Laura's attentions are fleeting, and it is inevitable that she soon direct her affections elsewhere. Dequenne's performance is extremely cute. She has an irresistible quality about her that makes people want to fall in love with her. This contrasts with Bacri's grumpy man shtick. He's the type of guy that can always find something wrong with life.

The only meaningful substance comes in the middle of the film, when Laura and Jacques are trying to figure out what exactly is going on between them. Laura wants more, while Jacques is perfectly happy. Things play out on a vacation away from Paris, where Jacques can take some time away from work and his nagging ex-wife. They are close to the beach, where lots of younger, fitter men also hang out. The Laura character is either extremely innocent or extremely manipulative, and either way, Jacques will most likely lose in the end. She's flighty, and because Berri doesn't do anything beyond that, it can get a little frustrating. Jacques is probably mature enough to figure out what' going on, but his loneliness is getting the better of him. Nothing really ever happens in The Housekeeper, but nothing is probably supposed to. The two kind of stumble into a relationship then sort things out after the fact. It's all pretty much nothing, but nice to watch.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 31 minutes, French with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains some nudity, sexuality, and language, and easy R.

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