Friday, April 11, 2014

First Impression - Suite Francaise

Williams and Schoenaerts in a tender moment

I feel sheepish writing about Suite Francaise since I saw it at a test screening. I don't know the etiquette involved in such a situation but I didn't sign anything that said I shouldn't. However I will speculate on its awards potential as opposed to writing a review as the film could possibly change before being released. The movie tells the story of French village during German occupation in 1940 and in particular Lucille (Michelle Williams), a French woman whose husband is away fighting in the war and her relationships with her disapproving mother-in-law (Kristin Scott Thomas) and  with the German officer (Matthias Schoenaerts) who gets to live at their home by law.

While this movie isn't in my 2014 most anticipated, I'm still interested because of Michelle Williams. She has knocked me over with her transcendent performance in Blue Valentine and became one of my favorites. She has three nominations already which means she might be considered due a win and this had the potential to be a big fat juicy role that could get her there. I'm sad to report I do not see it as an Oscar wining performance. She is of course great : emotional and open and without question the movie is her story. She gets to be repressed and timid, then open as she falls in love. She gets to be courageous and willful and gets lots of loving close ups showing all these feelings she's feeling. But she's also saddled with an irksome narration, and the tone of the movie is all over the place. Is it a big weepy romance a la The English Patient? Is it a wartime at home story a la Hope and Glory? Is it a story about the French Resistance a la The Last Metro? It tries to be all and never settles on a winning tone.

The tone is important in that it doesn't give the performance the space to build and really hit the emotional spot. And for that I think she might be nominated because 1) she's good and 2) she has a strong history with awards. But I don't see this movie and performance riding a wave of critical accolades and cinephile love to an Oscar win.

Schoenaerts amid the German tanks

Matthias Schoenaerts in my mind was the standout performance. But it is a very recessive subtle one that is unlikely to get noticed. Kristin Scott Thomas is her usual funny brittleness and could get carried in Williams' coattails if the movie resonates. Costumes and cinematography are possibilities. But ultimately this is a very good production that is not inventive or particularly original to stand out.

1 comment:

mrWak said...

Discovered the existence of this movie when I was researching Ruth WIlson's IMDB for an article on Luther. I'm always a bit careful with foreign produced movies set in France during the Occupation; seems a bit risky, besides the obvious so called French speaking English.