I’ve seen Claude Chabrol’s films, and Denis Dercourt’s The Page Turner is no Merci Pour Le Chocolat. A French thriller without a single thrill (but plenty of chuckles), this psychological suspense story follows young adult Mélanie (L’Enfant‘s Déborah François) as she exacts revenge against a famous concert pianist named Ariane (Catherine Frot) for having ruined her childhood chance at musical stardom. During a rehearsal, 10-year-old Mélanie is distracted by judge Ariane signing a fan’s autograph, causing her to botch the rest of her performance and, soon afterward, forever cast aside her ivory-tickling dreams. Years later, she gets an internship at the law firm of Ariane’s husband Jean (Pascal Greggory), a professional stepping stone for her true, cunning goals: becoming the live-in nanny for Ariane’s son Tristan (Antoine Martynciow) and the personal page turner for Ariane, whose stage confidence has been terribly shaken by a car accident. Dercourt’s idea of subtlety is an intro that intercuts Mélanie practicing the piano and her butcher parents chopping up huge slabs of meat (one can see the poster’s tagline now: “The Delicacy of a Pianist, the Skill of a Butcher!”). Yet such graceless foreshadowing turns out to be preferable to the subsequent Fatal Attraction-The Hand That Rocks the Cradle gibberish concerning the evil au pair screwing with Ariane’s head (and nether regions) via lesbian seduction. Since Mélanie’s seminal failure was, fundamentally, her own (regardless of Ariane’s thoughtlessness, the girl’s inability to play through minor distractions is her own fault), and since Ariane is too dense to identify the look of cold, robotic cruelty in Mélanie’s eyes, neither earns much sympathy. And Dercourt’s slow, methodical direction has the effect of merely amplifying the silly self-seriousness of the story’s not-nearly-Machiavellian-enough scenarios, including the vengeful protagonist stabbing a gropy cellist with his own instrument and turning Ariane’s egocentric weakness for autograph-signing against herself. Though when it comes to wicked deviousness, nothing can prepare you for Mélanie’s terrifying, sadistic plot against budding pianist Tristan, which involves giving the young, innocent boy…tendonitis!
- Tartan Films
- 85 min
- Denis Dercourt
- Denis Dercourt, Jacques Sotty
- Catherine Frot, Déborah François, Pascal Greggory, Xavier de Guillebon, Christine Citti, Clotilde Mollet, Jacques Bonaffé, Antoine Martynciow
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