Sunday, March 05, 2017

“(In Bed With) Victoria”– Movie Review



This weekend, I attended another screening from The Film Society Of Lincoln Center’s French Film series, seeing a new comedy “(In Bed With) Victoria”. 


When a lawyer represents a friend accused of attempted murder, can the case revitalize both her personal and professional life?


Once her babysitter/boyfriend quits, Victoria (Virginie Efira) finds herself in a bit of a bind.  A busy lawyer, she’s desperately trying to juggle her professional life with her personal life after her divorce.  Attending a wedding, she coincidentally runs into Sam (Vincent Lacoste), a former client; getting his life back together after nearly going to jail for drug dealing, he’s looking for work.  Seizing the opportunity, Victoria offers Sam the job of live-in babysitter; he agrees to move in and care for her two little girls while she’s at work.

Sam is not the only old acquaintance with whom Victoria reconnects at the wedding; Vincent (Melvil Poupaud) is also a guest and he’s brought his girlfriend.  Afterwards, Vincent confides in Victoria that his girlfriend is accusing him of attempted murder for trying to stab her with a butter knife.  Although Victoria is aware of the potential ethical problems representing someone whom she knows personally, she agrees to take the case regardless.  Unfortunately, when the bar association learns of this, she is suspended for six months. 

Forced to lay off Sam because she can no longer afford him, Victoria is now taking care of the children by herself.  Panicking, she reaches out to Sam, whom she learns is now studying law.  Soon, a romance blossoms between them.  Once the suspension concludes, Victoria finds the lawyer Vincent hired in the interim has dropped him; reluctantly, she takes his case again, with Sam helping her throughout.  After self-medicating on various prescription drugs due to stress, Victoria is barely in shape to appear in court.  Despite this, can she win the case for Vincent and resume her relationship with Sam?  


As a farcical dark comedy, “Victoria” succeeds in many respects.  The performances are quite good (not the least of which being Virginie Efira in the title role) and many of its ideas are clever, sophisticated and witty in a way we have come to expect from French filmmakers.  Where it lets down the audience is when it is uneven in its humor and occasionally seems to be veering into drama (or even melodrama, in some cases).  Despite this, it attempts to have somewhat of a conventional Hollywood style ending (the director was clearly influenced by these types of films).   

Victoria is also not exactly the most sympathetic protagonist, either.  We see how this woman behaves irresponsibly while having to raise two children and it doesn’t particularly endear the character to the audience.  Divorced and raising two daughters as a single mom, she invites strange men back to her apartment for sex while her children are present.  Add to this the fact that she appears to be hopelessly hooked on Xanax and you’ll be forgiven for wondering exactly why you should be rooting for her.  Given the fact that her ex-husband seems to be something of a wastrel, it seems that neither can be a suitable parent for these girls. 

Following the screening, there was an interview with Director Justine Triet; this was conducted through an interpreter because she does not speak English.  In the movie, animals play a central part of one of the court cases; she said of the old show business proverb, “Never work with animals or children”, the animals were so problematic that she has sworn never to use them in another film.  While working with the children certainly had its challenges, shooting with the animals was much worse.  In one case, the trainer for a Dalmation made claims that the dog would be able to do all sorts of things on the set but when the cameras rolled, it could not do any of them.  The other animal, which by far was the worst of the two, was a chimpanzee which attacked one of the cast members.  The original idea for the movie’s poster was supposed to be a shot of Victoria with the chimp, but it was decided he was too unruly to work with, so they abandoned that idea.   

Victoria (2016) on IMDb

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