With The Queen of Hearts, autodidact Valérie Donzelli proves that she can make a better Tiny Furniture than Lena Dunham, though that really isn’t saying much. Donzelli wrote, directed, and starred in Queen of Hearts, a comedy that wears its love of screwball comedies, Godard, and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg on its sleeve, but never really advances beyond a comfortable narrative of self-defeating self-loathing.
Thankfully, unlike Tiny Furniture, Queen of Hearts is at least somewhat appealing thanks to the amusing way that it recycles actor Jérémie Elkaïm in four different roles. Elkaim plays: Jacques, the married man whose infant Adele (Donzelli) babysits; Pierre, a pleasant but mostly banal art student; Paul, a mysterious man Adele meets and feels an instant attraction to; and Mathieu, Adele’s ex. Adele’s current relationships with the first three aforementioned men are defined by her neuroses: she has cursorily fulfilling sex with Jacques but wants to actively flee from him every time he comes on to her; she doesn’t know what to make of Pierre, but he’s always there for her; and she loves Paul though she only meets him briefly three times, exchanging endless text messages with him and eventually engaging in kinky sex for the sake of holding onto him.
Within the context of Donzelli’s film, the idea of having one actor play four different characters is a cute but staid reflection of Adele’s need to hash out her conflicting emotions about the one that got away (note: I hesitate to call this technique Buñuelian because the way Donzelli uses it is a far more literal reflection of her character’s problems; it’s not as abstract as the central relationship in That Obscure Object of Desire). The lather Donzelli works herself into in order to impress her audience—she mopes, texts, has kinky sex, and sings—is kind of impressive, but not enough to make Queen of Hearts worth recommending unless you like prefer pitiable protagonists to sympathetic ones.
The Queen of Hearts will play on March 9, 11, and 13 as part of this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series. To purchase tickets, click here.