'Right Here Right Now' ('Maintenant tout de suite'): Film Review

Courtesy of SBS Films/Samsa
A finely chiseled character drama.

French director Pascal Bonitzer's latest stars his daughter, Agathe, alongside Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Jean-Pierre Bacri and Vincent Lacoste.

Right Here Right Now (Maintenant tout de suite), the latest exploration of living in this harried age of anxiety from French writer-director Pascal Bonitzer (Looking for Hortense), is set, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the world of high finance and takeovers. And as usual for the filmmaker, an impressive roundup of seasoned French A-listers bring their A-game, with the sprawling ensemble cast here including the likes of Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Pascal Greggory and Jean-Pierre Bacri.

What is unexpected, however, is the extent to which the choral narrative pays attention to the youngsters, played by Agathe Bonitzer (the director’s 27-year-old daughter) and pimple-aged idol Vincent Lacoste (Hippocrates). They play two newcomers in the financial world hoping to climb — or make that leap — up the corporate ladder as quickly as possible. This unexpected emphasis provides the otherwise frequently familiar proceedings with a shot of youthful energy, even if it seems unlikely French hipsters will suddenly flock to the June 22 release.

We first meet Nora (Agathe Bonitzer), a somewhat cold, possibly calculating redhead wit, on her first day at a company specializing in mergers and takeovers. With her icy demeanor, patrician features and flawless, marble-like complexion, it’s almost hard to believe she’s the daughter of unshaven and cantankerous math genius Serge (Bacri). He would have preferred her to stay relatively poor but potentially make important discoveries, like him, rather than sell out to corporate greed. Complicating matters further is the fact Nora’s new bosses, the business partners Barsac (Wilson, assertive) and Prevot-Paredes (Greggory, meek), are old acquaintances of Serge’s, as is Barsac’s wife, Solveig (Huppert).

As with all of Bonitzer’s dense screenplays, it takes a while before all the relationships and conflicts are laid out and set up, though once they crystallize interesting symmetries and contrasts start to emerge. Solveig, for example, who shares an Ibsen-evoking first name with Nora, is an alcoholic and frigid strawberry blonde who could technically be Nora’s mother; even their hair colors are similar (if conspicuously not quite the same). But more than a maternal figure, Solveig functions as a suggestion of what Nora might look like in a couple of decades. That would be Serge’s worst nightmare, except that he harbors feelings for Solveig that are not all directly and witheringly antagonistic (his standard setting with pretty much all of mankind).

There’s a secret hidden in the past that involves several of the middle-aged characters and of which Nora seems completely unaware, though thankfully Bonitzer knows better than to turn the film into a mystery that needs to rely on one big revelation for effect. Instead, it is more interested in observing more generally how the various characters behave and try to go after what they want — or neglect to do so.

Some of them carefully tiptoe around certain elements of not only what happened in the past but also what’s happening in the here and now, where Nora and her equally ruthless young-pup colleague, Xavier (Lacoste), are working on a potentially huge deal for a handsome Belgian client (Yannick Renier). The complex takeover case has its own share of secrets and moral judgments that the characters need to deal with or decide to ignore — or at least appear to decide to ignore.

The complexity of Bonitzer’s writing should come as no surprise, since he’s worked as a screenwriter for such masters of the intricacy of human emotions and thinking such as André Téchiné and Jacques Rivette. Here, the writer-director again collaborates with his regular co-scripter, Agnes De Sacy, and their screenplay is filled with sharp dialogue, moments of psychological insight and amusing quid pro quos, with even a soupcon of the supernatural. That said, it’s almost inevitable that not everyone in the large cast of characters gets their due; Serge’s other daughter (and Nora’s sister), a singer called Maya (Julia Faure), feels especially undernourished, acting more as a convenient foil for the other characters than really having her own raison d’etre.

As in all of Bonitzer’s films, the acting is top-notch. It helps if the characters have good dialogue to tear into, of course, but there are also entirely wordless moments that are extremely telling and touching. Huppert’s constantly evolving facial expressions during a long monologue by Bacri’s character as he unburdens himself outside the hospital, for example, is a small master class in understated acting. In those couple of minutes, everything about her character falls into place, though all she seems to be doing is listening (and silently reacting) to another human being.

Technically, the feature is polished, with the discreet style never distracting from the characters and their quandaries.

Production companies: SBS Films, Samsa, Entre Chien et Loup
Cast: Agathe Bonitzer, Vincent Lacoste, Lambert Wilson, Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Julia Faure, Pascal Greggory, Virgil Vernier, Yannick Renier
Director: Pascal Bonitzer
Screenplay: Pascal Bonitzer, Agnes de Sacy
Producers: Said Ben Said, Michel Merkt
Director of photography: Julien Hirsch
Production designer: Manu de Chauvigny
Costume designer: Marielle Robaut
Editor: Elise Fievet
Music: Bertrand Burgalat
Casting: Antoinette Boulat
Sales: SBS international

Not rated, 98 minutes