Reviewed in brief.
Rated: R for some sexuality. In French, subtitled. Where: Edina.
A throwback to the days of Doris and Rock, "Potiche" is a champagne cocktail about a wealthy trophy wife (Catherine Deneuve) who demonstrates surprising spunk and savvy when her unfaithful husband (Fabrice Luchini), a snarling capitalist, is taken hostage by his striking workers. The film, set in the 1970s, is shot in the cheerful pastel hues of an old-school studio comedy, and director Francois Ozon delivers the gags at a peppy pace.
On the surface it's an upscale "Made in Dagenham," with frothy art direction, jovial performances and nostalgic disco sequences. Actually, it's a sharp, nutty infidelity farce with casual jokes about incest and abortion that no stateside comedy would dare include. Deneuve's Farrah-tressed daughter (Judith Godrèche) is a smiling-viper reactionary. Her sweet, bleeding-heart son (Jeremie Renier) is dealing with some closeted issues of his own. As a lefty politician who has some long-unfinished business with Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu is a portrait in romantic-ideological conflict, aghast that he has warm feelings for his class adversary. Deneuve's well-coiffed, ladylike character is concealing some lusty indiscretions of her own. Ozon cheerfully ridicules all sides, and although some pointed jokes about French politicians are lost in translation, he scores more often than he misses. It's a cheeky female revenge fantasy that plays out even in the casting. The ageless, regal Deneuve is still Deneuve; Depardieu is Shrek.
Rated: R for pervasive language, some sexuality and violence. Where: Lagoon.
Every kitchen-sink dramatic cliché is trotted out in John Gray's Brooklyn period piece. Stephen Lang ("Avatar") is the domineering blue-collar father whose parenting strategy is pounding his twentysomething sons, verbally and physically, until they toughen up. Misty-eyed Karen Allen is the long-suffering mother; as the film is set among devout Catholics 40 years ago, divorce is not an option. Nick Thurston is the artistic younger brother, dreaming of a college scholarship, and Geoffrey Wigdor is the older, a petty crook trying to amass a run-away fund with a series of small-time heists. The cast goes through the steps of this familiar dance winningly. It's conventional working-class family melodrama -- fistfights, flirtation, love and beer -- elevated by Allen and Lang. His performance, despite blunt brute-longshoreman dialogue, gets you by the throat and squeezes hard; he wasn't born, he was quarried. Allen's a tender, faded flower, great at being distraught. Together they're the Fred and Ginger of domestic violence.