My Piece of the Pie (Ma Part du Gâteau): Film Review

Gags lighten Gallic stab at a Ken Loach-style social comedy.

Cedric Klapisch's French film is an English-style social comedy that wears its commitment on its sleeve, yet is in tune with the times and should find a receptive audience wherever the current financial crisis has left blood on the shop floor.

PARIS — Callous bankers, doughty workers fighting the ills of unemployment, a love story across the industrial divide, an upbeat ending — Cedric Klapisch's My Piece of the Pie is an English-style social comedy with every chance of becoming a crowd-pleaser. Though it wears its commitment on its sleeve, the movie is in tune with the times and should find a receptive audience wherever the current financial crisis has left blood on the shop floor.

The two main characters are emblematic. When her employer goes bust, a victim of the financial crash, France (Karin Viard), the mother of three adolescent daughters, starts commuting from the port city of Dunkirk where she lives to Paris where she is able find temporary jobs through a home-help agency. Meanwhile in London, Steve (Gilles Lellouche) — birth-name Stephane — is rewarded for his success as a high-flying trader with a mission to set up a new hedge fund in Paris.

France soon finds herself house-cleaning in Steve's luxury penthouse. Her duties are then extended to baby-sitting for Albin, the son Steve had with his estranged partner Melody (Raphaele Godin). Inevitably, a romantic entanglement follows. With an improbable idyll about to bloom, Steve lets slip a boast that it was he more than anyone who sank the firm France used to work for and consigned her and her fellow workers to the dole queue.

At times Klapisch's approach is overly schematic. Steve, like all the bankers around him, is presented as a monster of greed and egotism, bent on securing his "piece of the pie" whatever the cost to others. There are some clunky lines of dialogue in which characters expound on how it was the container revolution of the 1970s that made possible today's outsourcing of jobs, and hence the massive profits, or observe that "business is not for good people." In one memorable scene, Steve gives a live, online demonstration of how to make 60,000 euros in two hours by anticipating miniscule currency fluctuations. Even France's name is designed to make a point.

But there are plenty of gags — mostly verbal, mostly good — and a driving musical soundtrack including rock standards to maintain uplift. Viard is excellent, while Lellouche has merely to reprise the role he played in last year's Trader Games. Implausibilities and the occasional didacticism are more than compensated by the director's energy and conviction, and the result is a militant entertainment that Ken Loach would probably not disavow.

Opens: In France, March 16
Production company: Ce Qui me Meut
Cast: Karin Viard, Gilles Lellouche, Raphaele Godin, Audrey Lamy, Jean-Pierre Martins, Zinedine Soualem, Fred Ulysse, Kevin Bishop, Tim Pigott-Smith
Director, screenwriter: Cedric Klapisch
Producers: Bruno Levy, Nicolas Royer
Director of photography: Christophe Beaucarne
Production designer: Marie Cheminal
Music: Loik Dury, Christophe Minck
Editor: Francine Sandberg
Sales: Studio Canal
No rating, 109 minutes