My French Film Festival review: In Bed with Victoria (2016)
Humour and charm6
Victoria Russell | On 02, Feb 2018
Director: Justine Triet
Cast: Virginie Efira
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In Bed with Victoria is one of 13 feature films released online as part of the 2018 My French Film Festival. Movies are available to buy and rent, with a selection of shorts available to stream for free. For more information, click here.
Sex and comedy is like banana and toffee: it seems like a great idea at the time but the more you experience it the more you realise it’s rather sickly. Such is the case with the majority of romantic comedies released over the years, particularly when the notion of sex comes into play. There are films that explore this concept intelligently, such as When Harry Met Sally… (1989), and then there are those which explore it tastelessly, such as the offensively idiotic The Sweetest Thing (2002).
In Bed with Victoria, the latest comedy-drama from French filmmaker Justine Triet, falls at neither end of this spectrum, but is somewhere lost in the middle. The film stars Belgium actress Virginie Efira (whom many may recognise from Paul Verhoeven’s Oscar-nominated Elle) as Victoria, a recently-divorced lawyer who struggles to balance her personal, professional and private life in the midst of a court case, two boyfriends and her two young daughters – not to mention drugtaking and psychic counselling.
In the pre-credits sequence, Victoria is witness to a potential stabbing committed by her friend, Vincent (Melvil Poupaud), and her interaction with the suspect leads to a penalty from the county judge, causing her to take an unpaid sabbatical. After resorting to hiring a male nanny, Sam (Vincent Lacoste), Victoria finds she can no longer afford help, despite him being the only real source of the support in her life.
In Bed with Victoria seems to be the latest in the trend of thirty-somethings struggling to maintain a personal and private life post-marriage, with films such as the Reese Witherspoon-helmed Home Again (2017) exploring similar topics. However, In Bed with Victoria is somewhat merged between Home Again and a French rendition of Trainwreck (2015), but with less smut and more smarts. Sex is a prominent theme throughout, but is always depicted in a realistic and unglamourised way, unlike the typical contemporary Hollywood flick. However, factors like its foolish supportive characters and cliched title do it no favours and detract from the film’s underlying core.
The driving force of the film is the title character itself and it’s Elira’s portrayal that makes her three-dimensional. While the actress is undeniably beautiful, it’s her intelligence and charm that make her attractive. She is alluring, and it is her unglamorous glamour that makes her so appealing on-screen. For example, one humorous moment sees Victoria mid-coitus with a male companion, but she can’t seem to stop talking about the worries of her friend Vincent, while her climactic scene with fellow love interest Sam could have been silly or even sultry, but is instead heart-warming and personal. The sex scenes throughout the film are passionate not smutty, romantic not slushy – a trait missing from generic romantic comedies these days.
In Bed with Victoria first screened as part of the International Critics’ Week section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and its lead actress subsequently took home the gong for Best Actress at the Magritte Awards. The film’s director, Triet, had previous success with her 2013 comedy-drama Age of Panic, which was nominated for the Best Film at the 2014 César Awards. And while her latest film is by no means a revelation, it is evident that she has true wit and talent that is certain to transcend on screen for years to come.
In Bed with Victoria is a rather confusing film to digest and, while the film has its moments, it falls shorts on originality and rests on its all-too familiar laurels, making it sadly too forgettable to be unique.
In Bed with Victoria is available on MUBI UK, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.