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Movie Review: 'Populaire' -- 3 stars

Romaine Duris, left, and Deborah Francois in a

Romaine Duris, left, and Deborah Francois in a scene from "Populaire." Credit: Romaine Duris, left, and Deborah Francois in a scene from "Populaire."

3 stars
Directed by Régis Roinsard
Starring Roman Duris, Déborah François
Rated R
Playing at Lincoln Plaza, Village East
In French with English subtitles

“Populaire” is a sunny French comedy that’s more or less indistinguishable from a ’50s studio picture. With punchy dialogue livening up a classical battle-of-the-sexes romantic blueprint and poodle skirts and bouffant hairstyles to spare, the movie offers an immersion in a nostalgic sensibility.

Déborah François plays Rose, hired as the secretary to insurance man Louis (Roman Duris). She’s a precocious young woman; he’s slightly older and infinitely bitterer. It’s quickly apparent that she’s bad at her job. But she sure can type quickly, so Louis resolves to train her for a typist competition.

The film follows this rigorous process, in which hours are devoted to transcribing Flaubert, learning a color-coordinated typewriter, physical exercise and more. Of course, the entire typing plot is really just an extended meet cute, a conduit for what the audience really wants: a heavy dose of the romantic chemistry between François and Duris.

Light-as-a-feather and utterly inconsequential, the film never deigns to offer “Mad Men”-style contemporary musings on the gender politics, archetypal figures and overall social strata of the ’50s.

At its essence, this spin on “Pygmalion” is a film of likable actors playing likable characters, who help each other heal and grow. Throw in enough authentic period touches to satisfy the most ardent history buff and you’ve got a perfectly engaging night at the movies.


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