Daily | Cannes 2013 | Maïwenn’s MON ROI

Mon roi

Emmanuelle Bercot and Vincent Cassel in ‘Mon roi’

Mon roi, directed and co-written by Maïwenn (that is, filmmaker and actor Maïwenn Le Besco) is an unendurable confection of complacent and self-admiring nonsense: shallow, narcissistic, histrionic and fake.” The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw: “This director’s Polisse—about a division of the Juvenile Protection Squad in Paris—was presented in Cannes a few years ago; it was a film widely admired and despite its group-improv spasms of over-acting and a somewhat preening cameo from the director herself, it certainly had qualities. But Mon roi defeated me: it is an outrageous 130-minute firework display of drama-queen over-acting and bad acting: impossibly irritating and self-indulgent, featuring people who are clearly on some important level supposed to be irrepressible, adorable and richly life-affirming—but are actually tiresome prats. When you’ve got a movie featuring that egregious smoulderer Louis Garrel, and he turns out to be the relatively calm, non-annoying one… well, it’s a bad sign.”

But for Variety‘s Peter Debruge, Maïwenn’s characters “rank among the most vividly realized of any to have graced the screen in recent memory.” Tony (Emmanuelle Bercot) is recovering from “the skiing accident that opens the film—only, it wasn’t an accident, but some sort of suicide attempt… For more than 10 years, Tony has suffered in her love for Georgio (Vincent Cassel), trying to change him, to tame a man who’s very wildness attracted her in the first place.” But “she learns to accept that pain needn’t be a part of true love. No doubt, that description sounds rather reductive, maybe even nauseating to some, as if the many emotional insights Maïwenn, co-writer Etienne Comar (Of Gods and Men) and her entire cast of collaborators bring to this remarkable portrait of a self-destructive couple could be so glibly contained in a mere aphorism. What makes Mon roi so special is not its salutary lesson, but the way all involved bring it to life, creating an exceptionally robust, detail-driven relationship through which we can vicariously experience the ups and downs, the joys and suffering, the sexual ecstasy and crushing emotional betrayals of the radiant woman whom it very nearly destroys.”

“It’s all too easy to sneer that it’s a subject that’s been covered thousands of times before ad nauseum in French cinema,” grants Leslie Felperin in the Hollywood Reporter, but Maïwenn and her cast “have an acute enough eye for the manners and mores of these archetypes to make the material feel consistently fresh and alive.”

“The film doesn’t lack energy,” allows Jonathan Romney, writing for Screen. “[I]t’s vibrantly shot in Scope by Claire Mathon, and the two leads are nothing if not charismatic, with Cassel effortlessly wolfish and charming in equal measure. Bercot’s intense performance feels honest and self-exposing, although the drama sometimes pushes her to emote way beyond what works. But as a female view of a damaging relationship, Mon roi looks pretty thin beside Catherine Breillat’s recent, bruising Abuse of Weakness. Maïwenn comes closer to the glibness of Claude Lelouch; for all its rough edges, this is a film drowning in its own chic.”

And for Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn, “Mon roi never moves beyond the basic trappings of its formula. Worse, it repeats the same tropes over and over again for two hours, as if the filmmaker ran out of steam along with her central couple.”

Updates: “After two films,” writes Mike D’Angelo at the Dissolve, Maïwenn appears to have some talent behind the camera, but she hasn’t yet learned how to modulate tone. She appears to side with Giorgio, who, when Tony says she’s weary of constant highs and lows and just wants something calm and steady, points out that, on an electriocardiogram, highs and lows signify life, whereas a steady flatline means that you’re dead.”

For Adam Woodward at Little White Lies, “Mon roi certainly has its moments—at times it is extremely funny, at others surprisingly affecting—but its ideas about the minutiae of adult relationships are grounded more in pop psychology than proper semiotic insight.”

“Maïwenn makes no apologies for liking her characters and being invested in their problems, even though in the scheme of things, they could well seem insignificant,” writes Jessica Kiang at the Playlist. “And Cassel and Bercot reward her faith with a believable portrayal of a couple who are either the best or the worst things to ever have happened to each other, and very probably both. It’s too long for the story it tells and that story is so much soap, to be sure, but at the very least Mon roi works up a diverting, attractively played lather.”

Updates, 5/18: “This is effectively an actor showcase,” writes Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club, and Bercot and Cassel “are both fine in roles distinguished more by quantity than quality, even if they’re a lot more interesting to watch when they’re flirting than when they’re fighting. Plenty of dishware and stemware gets broken, snot pours out of noses on and down tear-stained cheeks, and failings are admitted to in between screaming matches. Meanwhile, Louis Garrel—cast against type in a comic relief role—steals every scene as Tony’s younger brother, never raising his voice above deadpan mock-protest.”

“If Cassel is the film’s gregarious center, Mon roi is nonetheless Tony’s story,” argues Tim Grierson at Paste. “Bercot has a challenging role—she has to dramatize passivity—and she doesn’t always translate Tony’s rationalizing into something more compelling. There is a part of this film that’s meant to be unknowable—why good people end up with bad people—but, then again, the same thing happens in the world around us.”

Mon roi “gives Vincent Cassel the chance to finally play a subtle role worthy of his talent,” finds Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa, “whilst Emmanuelle Bercot puts her heart and soul into embodying a very difficult character. The pair allow the film to reach its full and sombre potential, despite the inevitable dross that comes with the dynamic approach of the French filmmaker, who is more at home in black swirling waters than white restorative magic.”

For Barbara Scharres, dispatching to, Mon roi is “one of the festival’s most irritating competition offerings so far… ‘Stand by your man’ is the point director Maïwenn appears to be making as she plods toward the conclusion with a sequence of lingering/loving close-ups of Georgio’s rugged face from Tony’s point of view as they sit in a parent-teacher conference. I don’t know what the guy who was angrily shouting at the screen in French was saying as the credits rolled, but I have a feeling he got it just right.”

Update, 5/19: “This movie asks no important questions, gleans no new insights into the human condition, and fails to send anyone to prison or falling from a window,” writes Grantland‘s Wesley Morris. “In other words, it’s no Polisse. Nonetheless, it’s all Maïwenn—some hip-hop, some rock and roll, rage, joy, orgasms, some mucus. Like, say, Abdellatif Kechiche’s wetter but less convincing Blue Is the Warmest Color, which overtook Cannes two years ago, Maïwenn leaves no water in the sponge. Her generosity is a gift—one some people would send back to the mall or have tested for an STD. But she works with an immediacy that’s like lightning here.”

Update, 5/20: “Maïwenn has her films unfold in a kind of perpetual, caffeinated close-up—they’re built of laughter and food and arguments and sex, all experienced at close quarters, with her camera capturing the emotions of her cast as they flash across their faces like sunlight through the windscreen of a speeding car.” The Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin argues that Mon roi “is an energized romantic drama overflowing with humor and passion, and a worthy addition to this year’s competition program at Cannes.”

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