I went into Looking For Hortense expecting a weighty French drama about immigration, instead I got a rather flighty dramedy that’s enjoyable, if a bit light-weight.
Jean-Pierre Bacri stars as Damien, a middle-aged lecturer who is struggling with life as his theatre director wife, Iva (Kristin Scott Thomas) prepares for the opening of her latest play. He’s tasked with the job of attempting to get his father (Marin Orcand Tourrès) to use his clout as a judge to stop the deportation of his wife’s, brother’s girlfriend’s friend. If all that sounds confusing, it’s not – but it is kind-of fun.
This Parisian set effort is exactly the type of film that makes French cinema so interesting. It looks great (you’ll want to move to Paris) and has enough wit and drama to stop it from being boring. Looking For Hortense is all about middle-class, middle-aged malaise, and while it doesn’t dig deep enough on an emotional level, it never stops to entertain. Pascal Bonitzer’s film has elements of a French farce, combined with the type of mid-life soul searching that made Lost In Translation so special. It’s not as good as that film, but it does manage to tick enough boxes and add an enough spice to make it worthwhile.
Bacri is great in the lead, adding a rumpled charm to proceedings, while fans of Scott Thomas will likely be disappointed by her relatively small role as the cuckolding wife. Marin Orcand Tourrès has great fun as Bacri’s politically connected father. He plays up to French stereotypes, but has a lot of wonderful moments in the process.
Looking For Hortense won’t change your world, but it will give you an entertaining 90 minutes in the cinema with interesting characters interacting with each other, in a time when most Hollywood productions are dealing with explosions and giant robots.