EVERYBODY LOVES JEANNE – Review by Nadine Whitney

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Just how spectacularly can one fail and try to regain some dignity? In Céline Devaux’s bright and anxiety riddled romantic comedy, Everybody Loves Jeanne (Tout le monde aime Jeanne), it seems Jeanne (Blanche Gardin) is copping it from all angles, inside and out. Her cutting edge ocean cleaning technology, Project Nausicaa, which possibly would have made her an eco-heroine has quite literally sunk to the ocean floor. Worse, footage of the spectacularly botched launch which shows Jeanne jumping into the water to save the machine, is now a popular meme. Now bankrupt and a laughingstock, Jeanne has no recourse but to go to Lisbon to sell her deceased mother’s apartment.

Hiding behind huge sunglasses, Jeanne is shrinking into herself. But there is another issue, her ‘Petit fantôme’ (internal monologue, delightfully animated and voiced by Devaux) is not giving her a second of peace. The odd little hair creatures are berating her for her every failure both real and perceived and they will not shut up.

Slouching in an airport Jeanne watches a man steal a pair of sunglasses and accidentally makes eye contact with him. He is Jean (Laurent Lafitte) a high school contemporary of Jeanne’s who reminds her how everyone knew she was going to succeed. Of course, she hasn’t, and she’s now stuck sitting next to a chaotic man in comically bad sunglasses who somehow worms his way into her disintegrating life with sweet, if anarchic, aplomb.

Once in Lisbon Jeanne has the opportunity to shed some of her public French shame but finds further challenges ahead as she has to deal with another kind of shame. Her cold and demanding mother committed suicide a year previously and Jeanne avoided taking her last call. Packing up her apartment takes her through her childhood with the woman who fat shamed her and never told her that she loved her. Venal real estate agents try to list the apartment, but something is holding Jeanne back from committing to anything with them and she finds herself becoming increasingly agitated by the urgency to sell.

Complicating things further are encounters with her now married ex-boyfriend, Vitor (Nuno Lopes) a dubious loser with pretentions of being a never appreciated singer-songwriter. Through all of it, there is the bizarre but tender Jean – an “ethical” shoplifter and frequent visitor to ‘Club Meds’ (he has been institutionalised for what appears to be bipolar disorder). With his adorable niece, Theordora (Lisa Mirey) in tow – Jean may just be the voice who really understands the rhythms of Jeanne’s Petit fantôme.

Everybody Loves Jeanne is a particularly sweet film about a woman on the verge of a massive mid-life crisis and skating a long withheld nervous breakdown. She has kind buffers in her life such as her light-hearted and reassuring brother, Simon (Maxence Tual) who knows what life was like with their mother, Claudia (played in flashback by Marthe Keller). As Jeanne is buoyed by Simon and Jean her vulnerabilities are given time to emerge and she has a chance to reconcile with the mother she didn’t while she was living.

Blanche Gardin is perfect as the woman who berates herself about worrying about the size of her butt while there is a climate catastrophe. Her messiness is real and earned. It’s almost impossible to resist Laurent Lafitte as the grandiose and gentle Jean. It’s not a film where romantic sparks are lit on sight but rather build through warm embers as the two open up to each other.

Céline Devaux has crafted an airy and enjoyable romp which carries with it some very perceptive commentary about how we construct our inner and outer selves. Everybody Loves Jeanne is a delightful peek inside the mind of an over achiever who probably needed to fall down so she could learn who she is. It also understand the complexity of grief – whether that be grief for a parent or grief for a career and smashed dreams. Witty and brilliant, Everybody Loves Jeanne is a gift.

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