Friday, September 23, 2016

French movie Friday: Chic!

"I don't do fashion," said Coco Chanel once," I am fashion". A good philosophy to live by, apparently, since Alicia Ricosi in Chic! has built a fashion empire, is considered a goddess by others in the business, and has a (terrified and sycophantic) staff who will go to absurd lengths to cater to her every whim.

Alicia, played by the magnetic Fanny Ardant, has a rather strangely warm aura for all her kookiness and self-aggrandizing; you can see why her staff is so worshipful. Her second-in-command, the craven, highly temperamental and yet hilarious Alain, is at his wits' end when she goes into a funk following a bad breakup. He turns to his second-in-command, Helene, to rustle up a fellow who will bring Alicia back to herself, by...er...distracting her through whatever means necessary. This is a high-risk situation, since Alicia is unable to create a single sketch for the upcoming collection and their entire reputation is at stake. 

Helene, however, delivers a dud. Meanwhile, she is herself being mean and unnecessarily harsh in classic 'kick the cat' progression, with her landscaper, a rustic Breton named Julien. Ultimately, Julien ends up being the much-needed 'muse'; he gets served up to Alicia like a grand entree, and things now seem set to go in a certain direction. But then comes a slow and sly change. You do see it coming, but its pace is leisurely and thus doesn't seem absurd. And there's a nice neat ending to tie things up...but I almost, almost wish for a sequel.

Of the characters, all except Julien were quite a bunch of meanies overall. Still, because they're all so self-aware and capable of great wit and vulnerability, they're not one-dimensional, but human. As a bonus, everyone has spectacular houses, especially the swoon-worthy one in Bretagne belonging to Julien. And Helene and Alicia have the great gift of panache in carrying themselves, making me admire the clothes all the more. (I wished to see more of the couture though.)

Finally, Chic! was just funny in a sort of painful and almost-implausible way; in fact it's the humor that carries the story through in the midst of so much bad behavior by almost everyone. As Alicia tells Alain on one memorable occasion, "If you have to be a shit, be an elegant shit!" Indeed.

Director: Jerome Cornuau
Overall rating: 7.5/10

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