My Afternoons with Margueritte
Best Costume Design of All-Time
Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Gisèle Casadesus
Review written by Robert Patrick
Colleen Atwood couldn’t whirl up a better outfit than the not-so-foppish digs that Gérard Depardieu is sporting in director Jean Becker’s “My Afternoons with Margueritte”. As seen in the screencap above, Depardieu looks like he kicked in the closet of Bob the Builder and ransacked the cartoon character’s wardrobe. The portly, aloof thespian plays a dimwitted manchild who, essentially, becomes friends with a nice little old woman, named, you guessed it, Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus). The movie doesn’t pluck any nerves, go off on any wily Hitchcockian twists (I almost said M.Night Shyamalan, but I managed to avoid the plasticity of that comparison, thankfully, and go with a better one), or even have the swollen set designs of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “Cleopatra”, but it does have Gérard Depardieu dressed like a French Humpty Dumpty – something the golden era of studios never had the luxury of using.
“My Afternoons with Margueritte” is an obvious wooden nickel rip-off of “Tuesdays with Morrie”, but somehow, even with the story being held ransom by another writer, this unoriginal little tinkertoy of a film feels like comfortable food. Who can deny Depardieu in overalls that look reminiscent of Huck Finn? The oafish character Depardieu plays has the shaggy hair and loose rags of an outfit that you would see on Chucky, the infamous serial killer of a doll made notorious in the “Child’s Play” franchise. Some of the humor in the movie is intended, of course, but much of it is simply cloying and charming. The character Gisèle Casadesus plays is less innocuous than Gloria Stewart in James Cameron’s “Titanic” – in fact, Gisèle Casadesus is so frail, good intentioned, and patient that she makes Stewart look as unstable as a Molotov cocktail in comparison. Most of the sloth-like, rock-kicking of a movie revolves around a park bench. This sounds boring. Often times it is. The saving grace is Depardieu’s ability to look as frazzled and empty-headed as an unmanned H.R. Puffnstuf costume. Some of the best exchanges I’ve ever seen in a movie come from Depardieu talking to his cat about tomatoes. This makes the incendiary chemistry between Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton look contemptible in contrast. Sure, some of the movie, even if it does supply background information on the stunted Germain, is a little boring and unnecessary (Germain’s mother was apparently a poor man’s version of Joan Crawford in “Mommie Dearest”, from what the storyline suggests in fluttering flashbacks, though it is so poorly presented that it’s hard to care).
Even though it’s endlessly amusing to watch Depardieu act like the Count on Sesame Street as he adds up pigeons for twenty-minutes (he names one of the ruffled birds “Crabster”) it’s hard for me to honestly give this film a perfect score, since it is, partially due to the glaring blemishes in the script, a little uneven. Did I mention that Depardieu names a pigeon “Crabster”? Seriously. Crabster. Later in the film, the character of Germain lifts barrels of alcohol, as a favor to a restaurant manager, while wearing overalls in what I can call live-action Donkey Kong. If our readers are still tethered to the idea of seeing this movie, I urge, even further, that you go simply for the scene where Depardieu names off vegetables as if he was the vegan version of Bubba Gump.
Becker’s film is adorable, flighty, fluffed up and without an iota of angst or aggression. Depardieu has the awareness of a concussed pheasant. Nothing of note is said. And lots of choking close-ups of rabid animals are shown. “My Afternoons with Margueritte” is a clumsy cross between “Harold and Maude”, “Boudu Saved From Drowning”, and “Gremlins 2”.
Oh, and if you thought the opening shot of “Marnie”, with an leggy Tippi Hedren was sexy, wait until you see Depardieu’s peddling sticks recreate a similar scene in the first five minutes of “My Afternoons with Margueritte”. Can I put this movie on my top ten list of 2011? Probably not. Can I put Gérard Depardieu on my top ten list of 2011? Absolutely yes.