Saturday, March 08, 2014

“On My Way” – Movie Review



This week, The Film Society Of Lincoln Center kicked-off its Rendez-vous With French Cinema series and I attended its opening night screening, the World Premiere of “On My Way” starring Catherine Deneuve.


When a woman learns her former lover has married someone much younger, this prompts her to leave her life behind to have new experiences.


Bettie (Deneuve) has her life taken up by working hard in her restaurant in a small French town as she cares for her elderly mother. Her world is turned upside down when she learns that a man who was once the love of her life has married a girl even younger than her own grown daughter. Traumatized by this news, she resumes smoking and becomes so stressed that she walks out on both her restaurant and her mother, hopping in her car and going for a drive. Obsessed with the urge to smoke, she manages to find a bar where she was told it would be possible to purchase cigarettes.

Once in the bar, she finds more than cigarettes. Bettie is befriended by a group of similarly-aged women out for a night on the town, which then results in her meeting the bar’s black market cigarette salesman – a 30 year old man who gets her drunk on Caipirinhas and then proceeds to hit on her. Embarrassed after her inebriated tryst with this young man, she immediately takes off the next morning, barely saying good-bye to him. On the road, Bettie receives a panicked telephone call from her daughter Muriel (Camille); after a long period of unemployment, she finally secures a job – the only problem is it’s out of town and she cannot take her son Charly (Nemo Schiffman). As a result, Muriel is now forced to impose upon her long-estranged mother to take the boy to his paternal grandfather so he can mind Charly.

Despite encountering a number of obstacles along the way, Bettie manages to pick-up Charly at Muriel’s house and sets off on the long drive to the grandfather’s house. During their trek, Charly and Bettie both wind up getting on each other’s nerves. When Bettie is hospitalized after a brief fainting spell, the grandfather arrives to pick up Charly and take him back to his house; grumpy from the inconvenience, he gets along with neither Bettie nor Charly, who by now has bonded with Bettie and insists she join them. Upon arriving at the grandfather’s and subsequently being reunited with Muriel, will Bettie be able to patch things up with all involved or is she doomed to remain at odds with everyone?


Despite a few (perhaps more than just a few) uncomfortably tight close-ups and a couple of plot point contrivances that didn’t quite parse for me, “On My Way” is ultimately a pleasant story, in no small part due to Deneuve’s patently sympathetic portrayal of Bettie. As the legendary actress plays her, Bettie has clearly been beaten down by life in her later years, even before being dealt the blow that becomes the catalyst for this road trip. This one-time beauty pageant contestant has suffered plenty as she’s matured and is long overdue for a bit of good luck around about now – but it’s not completely certain if it’ll be coming her way any time soon.

Regarding the director’s shot choices, Emmanuelle Bercot (who co-wrote the screenplay with Jérôme Tonnerre) makes regular use of extreme close-ups; if you suffer from claustrophobia, you might be somewhat taken aback here (and if you’re not claustrophobic, you may soon be). Also, the script contains some moments that may make you feel as though you missed something: We find out that Bettie’s restaurant is in trouble, yet every time we see her there, it’s always extremely busy. Bettie repeatedly rejects a reunion of fellow beauty pageant contestants, yet for some reason, she winds up attending anyway. Lastly, Charly goes from being Bettie’s worst enemy to her best friend so fast, it almost gave me whiplash.

Prior to the screening, a representative from The Film Society introduced a number of the filmmakers whose work was being featured during this series; among those present was Deneuve herself, who briefly spoke to the audience (much to her surprise, apparently).  This was a little disappointing because in their promotion of this screening, The Film Society mentioned Deneuve was going to be in attendance, but I assumed she would be interviewed either before or after the screening.  Sadly, this was not the case; I would’ve enjoyed hearing her talk about her career and the experience of shooting this movie. 


On My Way (2013) on IMDb 6.5/10442 votes6.5/10447 votes

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