Take whatever graces come your way. Instead of the usual ponderous biopic tropes, Molière offers a harmless, fairly breezy fabulist romp about the life of the great French satirist. Having always insisted on tragedy as the essence of theater, Molière (Romain Duris) finds himself blocked when, upon his 1658 Paris homecoming with his acting troupe, he’s asked by the royal family to deliver a comedy on opening night. No problem. Cue flashback to his roisterous youth, when an extended farce supplied bits to be later shaped into Tartuffe and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, along with the unheard-of proposition that love is what, deep down, really inspires an artist. A cumbersome tragedian, Molière suddenly comes alive on the stage with impromptu slapstick, a vocation he pursues when he’s hired by rich, dim trader Monsieur Jourdain (Fabrice Luchini) to help him pen a play to impress Célimene (Ludivine Sagnier), the young, haughty noblewoman he’s smitten with. Disguised as a priest, the budding playwright gets plenty of future material from dandyish snake-in-the-grass Dorante (Edouard Baer), Jourdain’s lovelorn daughter Henriette (Fanny Valette), and, most notably, suspicious wife Elmire (Laura Morante), who comes to distrust their new visitor while falling for the mysterious writer of the prose she finds on her husband’s desk. The Shakespeare in Love song remains the same, only the lyrics have changed. If both films are equally trite in their saccharine mingling of life and art, Molière profits from director Laurent Tirard’s brisk staging, and also from the actors. Hardly diminished by the plush surroundings, Duris’s intensity keeps Molière’s ardor from becoming puppyish, nicely matched with Luchini’s adroit denseness. It’s Morante, however, who ultimately gives this flyweight confection its anchor. When her Elmire descends on the young poet in a flash of passion, the actress’s wry womanliness makes you believe Molière was indeed inspired to write that “to live without loving is not really to live.”
- Laurent Tirard
- Laurent Tirard, Grégoire Vigneron
- Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Laura Morante, Edouard Baer, Ludivine Sagnier, Fanny Valette, Mélanie Dos Santos, Gonzague Requillart, Gilian Petrovski, Sophie-Charlotte Husson, Anne Suarez, Arié Elmaleh, Eric Berger
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