As its name would suggest Gemma Bovery flirts with Gustav Flaubert's infamous masterpiece Madame Bovary, placing our titular heroine in the same provincial town but in modern times. Gemma Arterton plays the disenchanted housewife, who finds that her romantic ideals and reality are unfortunately at odds. Director Anne Fontaine's take on the old classic cleverly places the story in the hands of an elderly neighbor who is bewitched by his new neighbor as well as her eerily similar characteristics to both the name and the actions of Madame Emma Bovary.
Gemma Bovery is married to an older, dependable husband by the name Charlie. They move from London to the French countryside at the bequest of Emma, who is dismayed when her romantic french cottage turns out to be a ramshackle fixer-upper. Frustrated as well by her husband's complacency, Gemma soon turns to endeavors of her own, all while under the increasingly troubled and far too involved eye of Martin (Fabrice Lucchini), her ex-parisian neighbor who narrates the movie with a humorous aplomb.
There's an enjoyment of simple pleasures here, which make even mundane actions kissed with a light. Much as Flaubert searched years for the right words to explain the most ordinary actions, Fontaine does the same with her camera here, making the sprinkling of flour and the rising of dough something wondrous to behold, and a crackle of senses bursting with flavor. Besides this and its humor, however, there's not much to be said. The film plods along to its inevitable climax and even the humor of the last couple scenes might not be enough to make the whole film worth it. Martin's narration does help the movie's pace, but it unfortunately slims Gemma's personality so that we're not always convinced of her as a fleshed out character.
What is interesting about Gemma versus the novel's Emma Bovary is that she consistently defies comparison to literature, at one point insisting "Je suis moi! Je suis libre!" And even if she does resort to image or banal cliche at times, what she does to stand apart might be what makes Fontaine's work relevant as a whole.
Playing at SIFF 2015
May 16 - 3:30 PM (SIFF Cinema Egyptian)
May 19 - 7 PM (SIFF Cinema Egyptian)