JEANNE DU BARRY – A Review by Cynthia Flores

JEANNE DU BARRY – A Review by Cynthia Flores

If you like historical dramas then you will probably like this new film from French writer/director/star Maïwenn. She started in the industry early as a child actress in France. She was married to the famous French director Luc Besson and was in several of his biggest hits. Since her divorce from him, she has done stints as a stand-up comedian and toured with her autobiographical one-woman show. Why am I telling you this? Because this film is the culmination of everything Maïwenn has done to this point. It is her passion project.

When asked why she wanted to tackle this story this is what she is quoted as saying:

It all started when I saw Sofia Coppola’s MARIE ANTOINETTE in 2006. As soon as Jeanne appeared on screen, I was fascinated by her character, played by Asia Argento. I immediately felt a strong connection with her and missed her as soon as she wasn’t on screen. I was seduced by Jeanne du Barry because she is a magnificent loser. Perhaps because her life has similarities to mine, but that’s not the only reason. I fell in love with her and her era. I immersed myself in a detailed biography of her and felt the need to make a film about her right then, but this was thwarted for ten years by a feeling of illegitimacy about grasping the subject. Each time I completed a new film I immersed myself again in the biography, but I never managed to triumph over my inferiority complex.

After shooting her film My King in 2015 she said felt she had the chops to tackle this historical drama. Her choice to star in it also reminded me of Mel Gibsons’ decision to cast himself in the 1995 historical film he also directed called Braveheart. Unlike his film Jeanne du Barry lacks the magic and weight that most big costume dramas need to make it a massive hit.

Don’t get me wrong. Jeanne du Barry is a beautiful film to look at. The cinematography is juicy and saturated with the elegance of Versailles. The costume is lush and exciting. But the pacing is a bit off and Johnny Depp seems underused in his part of King Louis XV. When asked why she chose to cast the often troubled Johnny Depp who is not even French this is what Maïwenn said:

“For three years I wrote for a French actor who in the end refused to read the script. It took me a little while to digest my disappointment before proposing the role to another French actor who said yes very quickly but had to pass for health reasons. From then on, I admit I no longer had any desire for a French actor in the role. Then a friend suggested that I make a list of my dream actors, ignoring questions of borders and languages. I could imagine three. I tried to contact number two on the list because he seemed the most affordable. And I had to wait two months before receiving a terse refusal from his agent’s assistant, without even a scrap of explanation. So inevitably when I decided to tackle the number one on the list, Johnny Depp, I didn’t hold out much hope! But I couldn’t have been more wrong: two weeks later I met him in London, and he immediately said yes. I wanted him in this role firstly because I have quite simply been a great admirer of his work for a long time. And also because in this role, which is more about gazes and silences than words, he seemed, from parts he has had in the past – EDWARD SCISSORHANDS to BENNY & JOON – and from the emotion that comes out each time, the ideal actor for this kind of casting against type. There’s something of Buster Keaton in Johnny. Lastly, I felt in him the romantic side of the role, his hypersensitive aspect corresponded to the Louis XV of my film.”

The film tells the story of Jeanne Vaubernier (Maïwenn), a lower-class young woman born to a cook. Her beauty and sharp mind catch the attention of a nobleman that her mother works for. He educates her and exposes her to high society like a pet. Later, when her mother and she are forced to fend for themselves she becomes a courtesan (kept mistress or prostitute with wealthy clients), and her lover, the Comte du Barry (Melvil Poupaud), presents her to King Louis XV( Johnny Depp). It is love at first sight. The film tells the true story of her rise and demise in the history of Versailles. She was linked to its opulent lifestyle before the peoples’ revolt and the guillotine changed everything.

 

Directed by: Maïwenn

Written by: Maïwenn, Teddy Lussi-Modeste, Nicolas Livecchi

Rated: NR

Running Time: 1 hr 57 min

Biography/ Historical Drama

Limited Theatrical Release: In theaters May 2nd and then streaming exclusively on Netflix on May 16th

Starring: Maïwenn, Johnny Depp, Benjamin Lavernhe

 

The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.

4 Stars – Good movie/show

3 Stars – OK movie/show

2 Stars – Well, there was nothing else…

1 Star – Total waste of time.

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