French film director Martin Provost, most notably known for directing multiple award winning film Séraphine, brings us his latest film, How to be a Good Wife. Unlike many of Provost’s previous productions which are serious in tone, this film is lighthearted in nature and stars long time French film favourite Juliette Binoche.
Binoche has been on the French stage acting and performing since her teens and her role in How to be a Good Wife as the proper and righteous proprieter of Van der Beck’s School of Housekeeping and Good Manners, in combination with the strength of other lead actors, is really what makes this film watchable.
Paulette Van der Beck (Juliette Binoche), along with sister in law Gilberte (Yolande Moreau) and nun Marie-Therese (Noemie Lvovsky) are the teachers at finishing school and they educate teenage girls how to please their husbands and attain domestic perfection.
The only thing is, the year is 1968 and the students are rebellious; they are part of the women’s movement and want liberation from their roles in society. They want to be sexual, they want to love their partners and they want to choose their own paths. Morally upright now widowed proprieter Paulette’s reunion with her long lost lover Andre (Edouard Baer) in the taking over of the estate is timely as it allows her to feel their suppression, something she seems not to have noticed in the past. Everything reaches inflection point.
Although light hearted with some humour it is not quite funny enough to be comedic as it largely relies on the talent of the actors rather than the plot itself to be entertaining; for example much of the humour is from Binoche’s exaggerated depiction of being a good wife. It would best be defined as a light hearted drama or an arthouse satire film.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that the film could be much better, it is still a relaxing film to watch and is set in the stunning town of Alsace. Not to mention, it is always refreshing to revisit films with historical narratives to reflect on societal changes.
How to be a Good Wife is amongst a fantastic choice of films at the Alliance Française French Film Festival which we are fortunate enough to have had running for over three decades; it is great way to connect with French culture or practice your language listening skills.
How to be a Good Wife screens as part of the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival at PalaceNova Eastend and Prospect.
Click here for screening times.