Review: “My Afternoons With Margueritte” – Susan Granger

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If you’re in the mood for a gentle French comedy, spend a few hours with Gerard Depardieu and Gisele Casadesus.

Their chance encounter begins one sunny afternoon on a park bench in Pons, a small, coastal village in the Charente-Maritime region. Hulking yet genial, 50ish Germain Chazes (Depardieu) works on construction jobs. While he enjoys spending time with his sexy bus-driver girlfriend (Sophie Guillemin) and sipping wine with his cronies at a local cafe, he’s essentially a lonely man. Living in a small trailer located in back of his mother’s house, he dutifully nurtures his vegetable garden and the produce brings in some extra income at the farmers’ markets. In flashbacks, it’s revealed that, as a child, slow-witted Germain was often not only verbally abused by his shrewish mother (Anne Le Guernec/Claire Maurier) but also his insensitive teachers and classmates at school.

One afternoon, while feeding the pigeons in the park, he meets Margueritte (“with two t’s”), a fragile, elderly lady who has been living in a nearby retirement home but now faces an uncertain future because her uncaring family is no longer willing to foot the bill. While she also enjoys feeding the pigeons, she really relishes reading. But Germain, being almost functionally illiterate, is quite intimidated by the written word. Yet soon Margueritte is reading aloud to him, patiently explaining and repeating particular phrases that he doesn’t understand. Before long, they’re conversing regularly and she’s sharing books with Germain, enabling him to surprise his bistro buddies with erudite references to the work of Albert Camus and Romain Gary.

Adapting Marie-Sabine Roger’s popular novel, veteran French director Jean Becker co-wrote the sentimental screenplay with Jean-Loup Dabadie. Gerard Depardieu, who previously appeared in Becker’s “Elisa” (1995), captures Germain’s working-class essence, imbuing him with poignant kindness and provincial humor, while 97 year-old Gisele Casadesus embodies Margueritte’s worldly background as a warm-hearted health worker.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “My Afternoons With Margueritte” is a subtly sweet, compassionate 7, appealing to art-house filmgoers of a certain age.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.