Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) is a 21-year-old girl who helps her widower father run a store in a small French village. It is the spring of 1958, and all she wants to do is escape from the life she’s doomed to, ending the decade right with a new and exciting job as a secretary. She’s engaged to the son of her village’s mechanic, and she’s sure if she doesn’t get out soon she’ll be stuck in a dull, dreary life as a housewife.
To make this dream come true, she travels to Normandy where a handsome man named Louis Échard (Romain Duris) is looking for a new secretary. It seems that half of the city’s women show up looking for the job, and Rose doesn’t stand a chance. Her interview is a disaster… until she reveals her great skill of typing quickly.
Louis is willing to give Rose the job, provided she competes in a speed-typing competition. Ever a lover of sport, Louis takes it upon himself to turn Rose into not only the fastest typist in Normandy, but the fastest in the world. Rose moves into his mansion so she can train rigorously for her typing competitions… and love begins to blossom between her and Louis.
Régis Roinsard directs 2012’s Populaire, a French romantic comedy. Starring alongside Duris and François are Bérénice Bejo, Shaun Benson, Mélanie Bernier and Miou-Miou, among others.
Populaire is very successful as a period film. The set design and costuming are fantastic. It’s easily buyable as being set in the late 1950s. Louis’ office looks very Sterling Cooper (before it became Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce). There’s plenty of vintage eye candy to be enjoyed here, from the dresses and hair-dos to the typewriters, advertisements and automobiles. Even the opening titles suit the film’s period!
The film is also highly successful simply as a romantic comedy. French film is unmatched when it comes to this genre. America hasn’t had a good rom-com in many years, but France has turned out plenty, including Les Emotifs Anonymes, which became an instant favorite when I discovered it last year.
With its period setting and focus on the sport of speed-typewriting, Populaire offers up a heaping portion of both quirk and charm. The performances are very good, and though the plot does for the most part follow the typical romantic comedy trajectory, the competitive aspect of it adds something extra.
It’s also very fun to watch Rose and Louis develop as a couple, since (like many of my favorite classic film couples) they start out hating each other just a little bit. Both characters have strong personalities and they clash, but usually in a fun and banter-y way rather than truly hatefully.
The film gains a bit of drama from the fact Louis is so dedicated to Rose’s success that he’s willing to make her angry and lie to her if it will make her become a better competitor.
Populaire is a great romantic comedy. I would highly recommend it for fans of the genre, fans of period films or just people who’d just like to stare at pretty 1950s imagery for a couple of hours! The score: 5/5!