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Queen of Hearts
Queen of Hearts is a little comedy that sets its heart at anyone who has ever experienced an emotional breakup with someone and who fears the worst: total rejection and loneliness the entire-world-over. Not that you have to experience either of these things to be able to enjoy Queen of Hearts as the slice-of-life comedy it is. Here is a film that is all about the path of rediscovering love and the miracle in you.
I'll get the basic plot-line out of the way rather quickly. It's easy to break-down. The film opens dramatically with a breakup -- between lead heroine Adèle (Valérie Donzelli) and her boyfriend. Newly depressed, Adèle turns to her best friend Rachel (Béatrice De Staël); an older woman who is frank in informing her that she needs to get over her ex-boyfriend and move towards having a relationship with someone more deserving of her affection.
Adèle decides to start looking for a new romance with someone else. She sets off gleefully to discover her next boyfriend. Alas, time after time she is with bad men and she isn't happy with the situation at all. But she also continually ignores the affections of a man who cares for her and whom she appreciates as a newfound friend.
The dramatic question of the film: who will Adèle end up with and will she find true love and happiness by the conclusion? The question is answered by the end and I suppose it almost is a question answered without even having to ask the question. Which is the norm for many of the romantic comedies produced today - but that's not the reason to see the film. It is all about the journey the filmmakers and actors take you on.
First of all, this is a cinematic experience that defies the realm of conventional storytelling. It doesn't ever feel like something even attempting to appeal to everyone in a Hollywood-esque formulaic way. The characters don't simply follow a strict pattern of expectations. Some of it seems to be that the screenplay wants to defy all expectations and be as odd of a comedy and romance as possible. To a certain degree, that element works in the film's favor and keeps it interesting.
The reason the film works as well as it does is because the performances by Valérie Donzelli combined Jérémie Elkaïm (who portrays four different characters throughout the film) work surprisingly well. The film seems like such a small production - which it is - but the acting doesn't reflect this as much.
Donzelli is fantastic as Adèle, who is a sweet heroine who you really want to find happiness. Elkaïm is particularly exceptional though for pulling off four different roles that all required difference in mannerisms and appearance. I was stunned. Nothing about the film made me realize it was one performer portraying all four of Adèle's romantic interests throughout the entire viewing experience. That's impressive acting, period. The characters were believable.
Queen of Hearts isn't a great movie, but it does feature interesting performances, an eclectic array of quirky stylistic choices from its director, and a solid story that has that indie charm viewers so often look for and so rarely find.
At the very least it makes for a passable rental. It's a charming, if somewhat inconsistent experience as a whole.
This simply isn't a good looking movie at all and there is absolutely nothing that could change that. The film wasn't filmed using high-resolution cameras and the best-of-the-best equipment. Try the reverse.
Queen of Hearts is just about as lo-fi in technological approach as you reasonably can expect to see these days. It's clearly filmed using low-grade digital cameras, something that does make it feel quasi-documentary and not altogether in a good way. It doesn't matter though. The spirit is what makes the film interesting and not the visuals. Some films depend on the visuals to tell an interesting story. Queen of Hearts isn't one of those films. Director/writer/star Valérie Donzelli even films it in the classic 1.33.1 aspect ratio and utilizes a slight framing technique to the film, which makes it appear slightly smaller. It is clearly meant to try and evoke a certain feeling of classic French films. To a certain extent the visual look works in this regard.
Audio:There is nothing interesting about the audio presentation. It is presented with standard 2.0 Dolby Digital audio. The movie never utilizes sound effects to good effect and the film is sparse in music. While there are some moments where the music makes the film a bit more light and breezy as a comedy, most of the time the film is rather quiet and only focused on the sparse dialogue. It's certainly easy to hear and understand but nothing interesting is going on with regards to the sound-mix.
Presented in French with English Subtitles.
Film Movement releases contain a new short film with each monthly selection. This month's short film selection is: Luis and Marta Work Together. Directed by Alois Di Leo, the story is about a man and woman working on a project while at last admitting to one another that they both have had feelings for each other. Marta proposes they move past the awkwardness of the feelings they have by proposing a very odd solution: getting naked while working. It's a short trifle that doesn't explore the characters much, but it makes a decidedly bizarre short film that has a way of being more awkwardly comedic than the premise suggests.
This DVD release also contains a short bio on Queen of Hearts director Valérie Donzelli and trailers for other Film Movement releases.
Queen of Hearts isn't a great movie but it is one with some worthwhile merits - most especially the contribution of actor Jérémie Elkaïm, who performed four roles and was so effective at this that it didn't even cross my mind that multiple parts were being played by the same actor in the film until the end credits made it incredibly apparent to me. I was in a state of truly bewildered disbelief. The rest of the movie isn't so-bad either. It's just nothing too far flung outside of the realm of decent independent fare. Keep expectations in check and you'll enjoy the film and be impressed by Jérémie Elkaïm.
The film has flaws - most notably its lo-fi cinematography and its lack of compelling character development. The screenplay is lacking in insightfulness but it is largely successful at creating interesting comedic scenarios - though these aspects (and the film itself) won't seem entirely appealing to everyone.
Rent It. Make sure to rent Queen of Hearts first and to then make your purchasing decisions accordingly.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.