★★★½ - STUFF
- A formulaic slice of French fun with just a touch of added grit -
There must come a time when we collectively realise, all European rom-coms about plucky outsiders winning against the odds, while surrounded by some of the world's most toothsome and bucolic landscapes, have left all pretences to reality behind and become only a form of self-parody.
Like a superhero or a disaster movie – all of which have been proudly parodying themselves with varying degrees of charm for decades now – the Euro rom-com only really works if we all agree to accept the process, the characters and the conclusion, before we even pay for our ticket.
There must be a plucky loner, working for passion, not profits, at the story's heart. He – or usually she – will be threatened by the forces of bigger business, often someone they once trained as an apprentice, or knew as a child, who has now joined the forces of darkness and capitalism.
Our hero must find a few unlikely allies, preferably with personal problems of their own to overcome – and then, when all seems lost, around 15 minutes from the end, they must hit on the winning formula, conquer their fears, overcome their prejudices – and live to trade another day.
The final product of their labours might be chocolate, or baking, or wine, or – as in The Rose Maker – an award worthy bloom. But the formula must remain the same.
And I say, as long as the films that result are as funny, charming, breezy and skilfully performed as this, then you can keep on making the darned things until the stars fall from the sky. Because they will always find an audience – and I won't mind too much if I have to be there with them.
In the lead here, Catherine Frot (Marguerite) is reliably tussocky as the much troubled Eve. Her rose-growing business – left to her by her dear papa, of course – is going under in the face of slicker competition, as personified by Vincent Dedienne, as the oleaginous young CEO of a Big Rose co-op, who cares “nothing for beauty, only for money!” (Yes, someone actually says this.)
So, will Eve gather an unlikely band of long-time unemployed misfits? And will those misfits prove to have hidden talents of the sort that might save the business? And will the film end on a lumpen metaphor about the best qualities of different roses combining to create a new and glorious varietal? Well, yes. It will.
But you knew all of that going in. And The Rose Maker at least has some fun and finds a little grit in the road getting there. Bravo.
- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF
The Rose Maker is now playing at Light House Cinema!