Marguerite, Baronne Dumont, the wife of wealthy Georges Dumont, is a most gracious and amiable lady and the host of regular gatherings for music lovers, at their mansion.
She invites and encourages up-and-coming musicians to perform in front of a small, appreciative audience at her musical recitals, and being the host of such get togethers, she also takes the opportunity to indulge her own love of singing, often saving herself up as the ‘main event.’
With one minor issue.
Her singing is genuinely dreadful.
Word and rumour of Marguerite’s ‘interesting’ talent, however it is spread, is far reaching with all manner of hangers-on keen to to observe the spectacle for themselves whilst taking advantage of her considerable generosity. All are happy to use Marguerite’s good nature and renowned hospitality for their own devious or selfish means. Indeed, there is an almost conscious collective effort not to upset the Marguerite apple cart for those that have a vested interest.
Contained within the lavish walls of his own mansion, and away from the cynical eyes and ears of the world, husband Georges is happy to indulge Marguerite’s fantasies. He knows the importance of keeping her happy, even if their own marriage has degenerated into nothing more than a sham. Marguerite is to him, something of an embarrassment and he will go to great lengths to limit the effect that her hobby has upon him, with the suspiciously-timed break downs afflicting his car en route to her recitals, a regular occurrence.
It’s fairly clear that things have not always been this way, and in his own self-centred fashion, Georges seems adamant that even if his and Marguerite’s relationship is now purely functional, he does still care for her and her well being and does what he can to protect her.
With the potential for embarrassment and ridicule minimised and crucially, well contained within the couple’s own four walls, things are tolerable, but it’s when Marguerite begins to socialise with a journalist and his duplicitous ‘performance artist’ acquaintance that Marguerite’s horizons begin to broaden, developing substantial delusions of grandeur in the process.
For Georges, things will reach a head when Marguerite becomes obsessed and hell-bent upon performing in public.
This can only end badly…
Catherine Frot is truly wonderful portraying the film’s lead role, Marguerite, displaying both naivety and know-how simultaneously as a delusional woman who only truly achieves happiness in her life through her singing and her appreciation of the music genre. Enveloped by her collection of seemingly countless operatic props and memorabilia, and serenaded by gramophone recordings of the pick of the world’s choral talent, Marguerite lives in a sort of rose-scented bubble of isolation, a bubble that separates her not just from the ‘real world’ but from her inner pain.
It’s an amusing tale on a certain level, but one in which exists a very definite undercurrent of tragedy and melancholy.
Beautifully observed as a period piece, infused with wit and humour and thankfully never over-stated, Marguerite is a most memorable piece from director Xavier Giannoli – an excellent addition to 2016’s best output thus far.
Interestingly, following relatively hot on the heels of Marguerite, we will soon have the release of the seemingly slightly more comic in its direction, Meryl Streep depiction of Florence Foster Jenkins, the infamous American amateur operatic singer and socialite – a lady similarly afflicted by a love of singing, but sadly an almost total inability to do so.
A chance to compare and contrast.
Needless to say, the review will follow…