EmptyOpened: In France Oct. 1
PARIS -- Josiane Balasko’s “Client” is billed as a movie about male prostitution but its real subject is broader and more resonant, concerning the loneliness of women aged over 50 who, for one reason or another, find themselves living alone. It is pitched as a light comedy but hits notes of pathos and personal tragedy. Despite the scabrous subject-matter and unevenness of tone, the movie has much to offer general audiences across the board in art house cinemas.
Judith (Nathalie Baye), a well-to-do presenter on a TV shopping channel, has picked up the habit of using “escort services” since her divorce four years previously. She meets call-boy Patrick (Eric Caravaca) through his website and is charmed by his easy manner and lack of pretension. Patrick, real name Marco, is married and very much in love with his hairdresser-wife Fanny (Isabelle Carre) with whom he shares a tiny apartment along with her mother, grandmother and younger sister.
Complications set in when Fanny finds out how and where her husband has been working overtime. After initially calling a halt to this second career, she decides that the best way to resolve their financial difficulties would be for Marco to continue doing business with Judith.
A subplot concerns Judith’s sister Irene (Josiane Balasko) who, at 53, is two years older. After a lifetime of frustrated but good-natured spinsterhood, Irene unexpectedly finds married bliss with Jim (George Aguilar), a Native American who whisks her back to the U.S. This sudden injection of happiness into the life of her much plainer sister is a source of both joy and envy to her.
A veteran comic actress (more than 60 credits) and writer, Balasko has yet to make much impression outside France, but “Client,” her eighth directorial effort, could be the one to do so. The movie boasts a first-rate cast. Carre is outstanding in the thankless role of deceived housewife, and Baye, who recently turned 60, has rarely looked better. There are some errors of judgment -- the voice-overs by the three main characters are a distraction, and some of the humor is broader than need be. But Balasko, who wrote the script with Franck Lee Joseph, has a fine ear for dialogue and a keen sense of repartee in this risky presentation of a woman’s point of view on an issue that remains largely taboo.
Production companies: LGM Films, Josy Films, Gaumont, France 3 Cinema
Cast: Nathalie Baye, Eric Caravaca, Isabelle Carre, Josiane Balasko, Catherine Hiegel, George Aguilar, Marilou Berry.
Director: Josiane Balasko.
Screenwriters: Josiane Balasko, Franck Lee Joseph.
Producers: Cyril Colbeau-Justin, Jean-Baptiste Dupont.
Director of photography: Robert Alazraki.
Production design: Olivier Radot.
Editors: Claudine Merlin, Marie de la Selle.
Sales: Gaumont International
No rating,105 minutes.