Opens Fri., April 11 at Sundance. Not rated. 113 minutes.
Femme d’un certain âge Bettie Chapoutier is beleaguered by some very French problems: Her bistro is failing, and her lover—she’s been waiting for years for him to leave his wife—instead takes up with some queue-jumping 25-year-old. Bettie doesn’t intend to run away from all this, but one afternoon I’m-just-going-for-a-drive turns into a road trip, and that carpe diem adventure (among other things, she hooks up with a skeezy guy half her age, at most) turns into a surprise opportunity to reconnect with the grandson she barely knows and the troubled daughter she knows all too well.
Bettie is played by Catherine Deneuve, whose face, I don’t need to tell you, is one of the wonders of cinema history, and is photographed accordingly by director Emmanuelle Bercot—not prettified, but allowed the ravishing dignity of looking its age. A subplot concerns Bettie’s being inveigled into attending a reunion of beauty queens; loath to think her life might have peaked as Miss Brittany 1969, Bettie at first refuses. But—and this too is so deliciously French—the reunion is portrayed without a molecule of camp, instead filmed as a bouquet, a banquet, of dozens more magnificent faces, as if Deneuve was a priceless pearl placed in an exquisite jeweled setting. And screenwriter Bercot also grants Bettie a final scene that’s a surprise not in terms of plot, perhaps, but in tone: a fizzing, slightly absurd, sparkling-rosé sort of joy until then absent from the film but which suddenly seems like the only possible capper.