Gemma Bovery

 

starstarstarhalf

 


The life of a fan of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary is turned upside down with the 

arrival of a new neighbour called Gemma Bovery.

 

In Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe (2010), based on Posy Simmonds' comic strip serialised in The Guardian, Gemma Arterton played a modern-day Bathsheba Everdene, from Far From the Madding Crowd. In François Ozon’s In the House (2012), Fabrice Luchini played a literary professor whose obsession for a student’s literary chronicle made him complicit in the evolving narrative. Here, Gemma Arterton plays a modern-day Emma Bovary, in a film based on Posy Simmonds' comic strip (serialised in The Guardian), inspired by Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Again, Luchini portrays a bookish character, this time Martin Joubert, a former editor at a Parisian publisher who has moved to the country in search of peace. He now works as a baker in a small Normandy village, his speciality being a multi-grain craquinette. His obsession, though, remains Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. However, his peace is shattered when an English couple move in next door, a husband and wife improbably called Charles and Gemma Bovery. She, Gemma, is the embodiment of the tragic heroine and every bit as beautiful, bewitching, bored – and bawdy. And so Joubert makes it his business first to fall in love with her and then to prevent her following in the novel’s footsteps…

 

Gemma Bovery

By the book: Gemma Arterton and Fabrice Luchini

 

Unlike Frears’ Tamara Drewe, which, peopled with unsympathetic characters, relied too heavily on physical comedy, Anne Fontaine's Gemma Bovery is an entirely more appealing affair. Not only has Gemma Arterton grown as an actress, but the always agreeable Luchini has reined in his characteristic comic tics to provide a totally plausible – but very funny – narrator. It may help to know the gist of Flaubert's 1856 masterpiece, but not essential, as the literary twists here are well described by Joubert. The film is also exceptionally light on its feet and brimming with charm, and, being French, all quite believable. This is real life imitating art, not farce. And it’s a relief that all the characters actually speak in French (mostly, at any rate), with canny supporting turns from Isabelle Candelier, Elsa Zylberstein and Edith Scob. It’s also a refreshingly unusual confection, with a terrific double-barrelled ending, a film that achieves a skilful balance between gentle comedy, love story, homage, tragedy and parody. It’s all here, whisked up into a delicious profiterole: dainty, a little cheeky and delicious.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Fabrice Luchini, Jason Flemyng, Isabelle Candelier, Niels Schneider, Mel Raido, Elsa Zylberstein, Pip Torrens, Edith Scob.

 

Dir Anne Fontaine, Pro Philippe Carcassonne and Faye Ward, Screenplay Pascal Bonitzer and Anne Fontaine, Ph Christophe Beaucarne, Pro Des Arnaud de Moleron, Ed Annette Dutertre, Music Bruno Coulais, Costumes Pascaline Chavanne.

 

Albertine Productions/Ciné@/Gaumont-Soda Pictures.

99 mins. France/UK. 2014. DVD Release date: 8 February 2016. Cert. 15.