'Nobody’s Perfect!' ('Bonne pomme'): Film Review

Courtesy of ARP Selection
And neither is this movie.

Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu headline writer-director Florence Quentin’s new comedy, which opened in France in late August.

Deneuve. Depardieu. A picturesque French village. What could possibly go wrong?

How about nearly everything?

In Nobody’s Perfect! (Bonne pomme), the two Gallic screen legends play a pair of over-the-hill losers who form an unlikely bond, with Depardieu’s gullible auto mechanic lending a helping hand to Deneuve’s alcoholic bed-and-breakfast owner. It's supposed to be a comedy, but this is mostly a sad and humorless affair that’s only partially salvaged by the two leads, who manage to remain fairly charming amid such paltry material. Francophone seniors should nonetheless turn out to see their favorite actors sharing the screen for the tenth time in their long careers.

The first time the two starred in a movie together was Francois Truffaut's 1980 wartime drama The Last Metro, which earned them both Cesar awards for their performances. But writer-director Florence Quentin (Ole!) is clearly no Truffaut, delivering a half-baked story that has a few sweet and sour moments in its early stages before it falls to pieces in the third act, with an ending that looks like it was improvised on the last day of shooting. You’d think that getting such big-name talent to join forces would warrant a certain level of craft, but a lot that happens in Nobody’s Perfect! seems to have been done on the fly. Or at least fast enough to get the stars back to their trailers.

Gerard Depardieu plays, well, Gerard, a “bonne pomme” (“real chump”) per the French title who’s stuck running a body shop with his ex-wife’s ungrateful family. One day he decides to pack up his things — including a mysterious bag of money — and skip town, showing up in the postcard-perfect fictional village of Levergeon (located in the distant suburbs of Paris), where he plans to buy the local garage and settle into a comfortable retirement.

While he waits for the garage's current owner, Rico (Gregoire Ludig), to clear out, Gerard holes up at the lovely little auberge across the street. The place is run by Barbara (Catherine Deneuve), a full-time boozer incapable of serving a simple meal to her guests, let alone standing up straight. If you think rude and crappy French service is a stereotype, you will not be disappointed by Barbara's place.

Yet despite her outrageous behavior, Gerard takes a liking to the chaotic yet classy lady, helping out in the kitchen when she disappears on drinking or gambling binges. It’s unsure whether he’s doing this simply because he’s the chump everyone says he is, or because he has some ulterior motive. And the film never really clarifies that.

There are a bunch of other subplots involving Rico’s supposed road trip to Samarkand, Gerard's ex's country-western dancing career, a goofy town mayor (Guillaume de Tonquedec) trying to maintain order and a conniving mother-in-law (Chantal Ladesou) hoping to track down the family breadwinner. But the characters are so cartoonish that they make Gerard and Barbara seem downright Ibsen-esque by comparison.

Deneuve’s decadent hostess is by far the most intriguing person onscreen, and there’s a tragic side to Barbara’s life that can be vaguely moving at times — the story of a broken woman who deserves better. But Quentin mostly squanders her chance to do something interesting with her two leads, and, unlike several other Deneuve-Depardieu combos (including Alain Corneau's underseen Choice of Arms and Andre Techine's excellent Changing Times), this movie will quickly fall to the bottom of both stars’ filmographies. It’s a wasted opportunity, but hey, nobody’s perfect!

Production companies: Thelma Films, Mon Voisin Productions, France 3 Cinema, Orange Studio, Scope Invest
Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Chatal Ladesou, Gregoire Ludig, Francoise Lepine, Guillaume de Tonequedec
Director: Florence Quentin
Screenwriters: Florence Quentin, Alexis Quentin
Producers: Christine Gozlan, Dominique Besnehard
Director of photography: Pascal Genessaux
Production designers: Katia Wzyscop
Costume designer: Bethasbee Dreyfus
Editor: Beatrice Herminie
Composer: Mathieu Lamboley
Casting director: Swan Pham
Sales: TF1 Studio

In French
101 minutes

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