THE ROSE MAKER – Review by Jennifer Merin

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The Rose Maker is a charming femme-centric French dramedy about Mme Eve Vernet (Catherine Frot), a middle-aged rose cultivator who has inherited her multi-generational family business, a beautiful flower nursery not far from Paris, and is now trying to save the place — her home since childhood — from bankruptcy.

Against her will, she must sell the land and her precious award-winning varieties of roses — and her family name — or completely shutter the operation and uproot all of the love and hard work it took to keep the nursery in bloom. It’s a shattering dilemma, but there’s one path to escape the thorny situation — Mme Vernet must cultivate a rose that will win the next rose grower competition, a feat that would provide her with funds and a good market for her exquisite prize-winning variety.

She can’t afford to pay staff, so her clever and devoted assistant arranges to hire three down-and-outers from a rehab center. She knows nothing about her new employees other than that they know nothing about growing roses — and seem dismissive of the rose-cultivating profession. But they need the jobs and, as she trains them and explains the craft them, they dig in to learn — which actually gives the audience a wonderful opportunity to learn with them — all about how to graft a flower to make a completely new and unique rose variety. The incidental learning experience adds to the film’s sweet bouquet.

Through her trials and tribulations, Mme Vernet remains dignified and principled, and she never loses her sense of humor and her human kindness. Fortune smiles on her in the end, but in a most unexpected and uplifting way. And, if you’re ready for Spring’s awakening, this pleasurable visit to the Vernet nursery and the gorgeous French countryside is timely, indeed.

We’ve seen other films about women cultivators who face economic disaster, but eventually prevail. One that comes to mind is the delightful Saving Grace, in which Brenda Blethyn plays a small-town English widow who, facing financial troubles after her husband’s suicide, turns to growing pot to pay her debts. Viewing these two as a double bill would be a very pleasing experience.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).