Director: Blandine Lenoir
Cast: Agnès Jaoui, Thibault de Montalembert, Pascale Arbillot, Sarah Suco
Watch I Got Life online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / eir Vision Movies / Google Play / Sky Store
Named after its central character (Aurore) in France, but retitled I Got Life! in the UK (after a Nina Simone song that features in a key scene), this very funny French comedy tackles a subject that’s rarely seen in contemporary cinema, namely the menopause and its impact on the lives of 50-something women. The result is a charming and sharply observed picture that delivers big laughs, while making a series of well-aimed satirical jabs at modern society.
Agnès Jaoui (The Taste of Others) stars as divorced 50-something Aurore, who’s struggling with the indignities of middle age. Beset by hot flashes and bothered by her boorish boss at work, Aurore is dealt a further blow when her eldest daughter, Marine (Sarah Suco), informs her that she’s going to be a grandmother. Inspired by her impulsive best friend, Mano (a scene-stealing Pascale Arbillot), Aurore decides that she’s going to make the most of life, so she embarks on a search for a new job and attempts to reconnect with old flame Christophe (Thibault de Montalembert).
Jaoui anchors the film with a delightful lead performance that’s convincing, heartfelt and entirely relatable. The film underlines this with a series of clever echoes in the other characters, e.g. Mano undergoing a more extreme version of the same mid-life crisis, Marine and Aurore both experiencing hormonal rushes (albeit for different reasons) or a hilarious, out-of-nowhere set piece where the female administrator in the job centre goes into a comic tirade about the lot of women in the workplace.
The script, co-written by director Blandine Lenoir and Jean-Luc Gaget, treats its central subject matter with respect, while still mining it for broad laughs. It’s not afraid to go for on-the-nose social comments – such as Aurore’s ex sticking his fingers in his ears and going “La la la la, I can’t hear you!” whenever she mentions the menopause – but Blandine’s assured direction trusts the audience to get some of the points the film is making without hammering them home; in one short scene, Aurore gets a suggestive comment on the street, which is immediately retracted when she turns round and the man sees how old she is (Blandine admirably resists the temptation of topping the scene with a reaction shot, which would have pushed the gag too hard).
Blandine orchestrates a number of memorable scenes that feel fresh and original, such as a dinner date in an “opera restaurant”, where they can’t hear each other speak, but the emotion in the music does the job anyway, or the afore-mentioned sequence involving the Nina Simone song, which quietly mixes fantasy and memory to powerful effect.
This is an engaging, funny and gently provocative French comedy that’s well worth seeking out. It’s also impossible to watch it without wondering what a British version might look like. Surely, it’s ripe for the remake treatment?