My Piece of the Pie, Cédric Klapisch’s class drama, sets up as one more redemption-of-the-self-obsessed-rich-man narrative. But when the expected moral deliverance of its financial hotshot lead never occurs, it’s less a refreshing upending of what’s become convention than a chance to substitute another plotline that verges on the ludicrous and fails to further one inch our understanding of global economics or the ways in which the rich and the working class interact.
Bluntness rules the day in Klpasich’s film, even if the film never explodes into any unpleasantness that might upset the tastefulness of the presentation. (The bland aesthetic is occasionally interrupted by showy urban landscape montages set to techno pop and presumably designed to give this “topical” film a contemporary edge.) The first half of the movie cuts between a newly laid-off factory worker and mother of three, France (Karin Viard), making due in Dunkirk thanks to the support of a robust working-class community, and an on-the-rise Parisian financial wiz, Steve (Gilles Lellouche), whose upwardly mobile life is devoid of any real human feeling. But in case we didn’t realize this last point, Klapisch helpfully peppers his dialogue with crudely on-the-nose pronouncements, as when a lover accusingly informs Steve that he “won’t let a woman love [him]” or, in a scene of embarrassing obviousness, the commodities trader looks out his window at the city below and declares, “My life is shit.”
This last realization comes courtesy of two new additions to Steve’s life: France, who, desperate for work, takes a job as his housemaid and slowly wins his confidence (and enters his bed), and his young son, Alban, who’s dropped off by his mother at his father’s pad for an extended stay. By mid-film, all the elements seem ripe for Steve’s redemption, but while he does realize the essential emptiness of a life devoted to the endless pursuit of profit at the expense of other people (his financial maneuvering ensured the closing of the factory where France worked), his profits-first-people-second mindset is finally too deeply ingrained to shake off.
Which leads to a last farfetched plot twist that allows the working class to rally behind France while Steve remains more or less isolate. But beyond the silliness of the heroine’s action, there’s little to glom on to here of any significance. The same, of course, could be said for the film as a whole. Desperate to score points for contemporary relevance (financial shenanigans, outsourcing to China), to craft a tale far reaching in its implications (the heroine is named France, for chrissake), Klapisch settles for a mixture of bland obviousness and crudely manufactured drama. For all its efforts to speak to a very contemporary moment, to chart the exploitative relations of the ruling classes to the people they treat like economic—and occasionally sexual—pawns, My Piece of the Pie is about as full of fresh insights as newspaper op-ed from 1995 and about as gripping a work of cinema as one might expect from the poster child for the French middlebrow.