Mauvaise fille: Film Review

Mauvaise fille Film Still - H 2012

Mauvaise fille Film Still - H 2012

A wavering affaire de famille marked by solid performances but a lack of real dramatic tension.

Irish rocker Bob Geldof stars in this French drama from actor-turned-filmmaker Patrick Mille.

PARIS -- Less a full-fledged drama than a mildly intriguing glimpse into one celebrity child’s tumultuous life, Mauvaise fille is a decently played, narratively innate freshman feature from actor-turned-filmmaker Patrick Mille (Love Crime).

Adapted by the director and his girlfriend Justine Lévy from her own autobiographical novel (where her father, the VIP philosopher Bernard Henry-Levy, plays a central role), the film is a veritable Who’s Who of celebs and their offspring, including singer Izïa Higelin (daughter of French pop-punk star Jacques Higelin) and Irish rock legend Bob Geldof, who offers up a charming performance where he pretty much plays himself. However, famous genes do not a movie make, and Mauvaise fille — which translates to “Bad Daughter” — has too flimsy of a story to find much traction beyond Francophonia and scattered fests looking for a semi-A-list lineup.

Taking many of its cues from Lévy’s 2009 book, although swapping out her intellectual powerhouse dad for a famed musician, Georges (Geldof), the film follows the travails of 20-something Louise (Higelin) after she’s hit with a double whammy of personal troubles: she learns that she and actor boyfriend, Pablo (Arthur Dupont), are expecting a baby, while at the same time her mother, Alice (Carole Bouquet), suffers from a recurrence of cancer that had went into remission several years earlier.

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Forced to both care for her dying mom and cope with the pitfalls of a first pregnancy, Louise, who works for a book publisher when she isn’t writing her own novels, tries to come to terms with a rocky childhood where her parents’ separation often left her at the whim of a mother addicted to heroin, partying and other women. These scenes are revealed in various flashbacks that offer glimpses into a troubled past, but never serve an otherwise weak dramatic arc that dissipates even more in the film’s protracted final act, where the cycles of life and death predictably have their way.

Some strong performances help give the loose storyline a bit of an edge, with Higelin making a rather impressive screen debut, although she’s better in naturalistic mode than when she’s belting out some of the script’s more theatrical exchanges. Bouquet (who’s son, Dimitri Rassam, is one of the film’s producers) is quite convincing playing the eccentric Alice at various ages, turning her into an endearing character despite all the foibles and phobias.

Making his first major screen appearance since Alan Parker’s Pink Floyd The Wall, Geldof seems particularly à l’aise as the kindhearted rocker dad, puffing endless cigarettes while offering words of wisdom (in both French and English) to his favorite little girl. Indeed, the idea of having the Live Aid­ founder replace Lévy’s stuffy philosopher dad was a fairly clever one: he’s both more touching and probably more likeable. Plus they sort of have the same hairstyle.

As hoped for, Geldof performs a few of his songs acoustically onscreen, accompanied by a busy soundtrack that includes tracks by The Rolling Stones and Nina Simone.

Production companies: Chapter 2, ARP, Nexus Factory, France 3 Cinema

Cast: Izïa Higelin, Arthur Dupont, Carole Bouquet, Bob Geldof, Joanna Preiss, Jacques Weber, Ingil Valenti

Director: Patrick Mille

Screenwriters: Patrick Mille, Justine Lévy, based on the novel Mauvaise fille by Lévy

Producers: Dimitri Rassam, Michèle Pétin, Laurent Pétin

Director of photography: Jérôme Almeras

Production designer: Benoît Barouh

Costume designer: Marie-Laure Lasson

Music: Jonathan Morali

Editor: Yann Dedet

Sales: Kinology

No rating, 107 minutes