Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu revel in 70s kitsch as prolific French auteur François Ozon sends up the era with his gleefully enjoyable farce.
1970’s France. A country divided along class lines. Suzanne Pujol (a fabulous Deneuve, first seen – uncharacteristically – in curlers and a striped tracksuit) is the trophy (‘potiche’) wife of Fabrice Luchini’s ruthless factory manager Robert. When his dictatorial style grates against the workers’ demands and they embark on a strike, Suzanne has no choice but to call on old flame and Communist firebrand Maurice Babin (Depardieu) to help settle the dispute. But when Robert falls ill and the company’s future – and therefore the Pujol family’s fortunes – is threatened, Suzanne takes matters into her own hands and soon realises that life at the top suits her.
Adapting Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy’s successful stage play, Ozon finds a perfect balance between farce, ridiculing 1970s excess – just wait till you see Ozon regular Jérémie Renier’s jumpers – and smart feminist message. As skilled a filmmaker as he is varied in his output, Ozon has consistently created a platform for some of the finest female screen stars to shine. But here he lets Deneuve rip and roar in a way that she never has before, and she rises magnificently to the challenge. Depardieu and Luchini both impress. But make no mistake – this is Deneuve’s film.