Review by Joseph Fayed
Francois Ozon is a prolific director who has proven he is capable of making films in a variety of different genres. His latest feature, The Crime Is Mine, is a screwball comedy that pays homage to the genre widely popular in the 1930s. Impressive performances from actors not traditionally known for their comedic work anchor this film and remind you of how good acting looks like it can be fun sometimes.
In 1930s Paris, Madeline (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) is a struggling actress who lives with her friend Pauline (Rebecca Marder), a struggling lawyer. Both can't seem to find consistent work and are months behind on paying their rent. An unexpected opportunity arises when a theater producer who behaved inappropriately towards Madeline is found dead. When Madeline is accused of his murder, she and Pauline seek to deliver the most magnificent performances they can to revive both of their careers. But with great fame comes the greatest responsibility neither of them expected- facing the truth of what actually happened to the producer.
Loosely based on a 1934 play later adapted into two American films, this screwball comedy's most significant adjustment is its feminist edge. Similar to Ozon's previous work, sexual repression is nowhere to be found. It's ironic, given this film is inspired by and set during the era of the Hays Code, but that is not to say the script suffers from limitations. The focus on fame and the friendship between Madeline and Pauline never seem to flame out. The cast dynamic elevates the wit and humor on screen. The chemistry between our two female leads is certainly believable, and none of the characters feel like ego-driven caricatures. They play off each other, which helps the story feel better-paced instead of a drag to watch.
Most of the humor in the film is witty and is supported by good delivery and comedic timing. With its ridiculous story as a backdrop, there is no way that this won't be intended as camp. The biggest example of this being an advantage is Isabelle Huppert's character Odette Chaumette, who appears in the film's second half. Odette is an aging stage actress who finds herself at odds with Madeline and Pauline. Huppert is over the top and the closest we get to chaotic evil. A particular line of dialogue that starts with the letter C that is both said to and used by Odette is something that will stick with me for years to come because of how out of left field it was. She shines in her role and goes against type cast, playing someone who is calculated but not cold-hearted. The tension between the three of them builds off of the course of action surrounding the catalyst and makes the ending feel full circle.
The Crime is Mine is a fresh take on a century-old style of comedy from an innovative director. It's easy to consider this the spiritual successor to Ozon's previous film, 8 Women, because of how in both films, the cattiness from its leading ladies accused of a shocking crime is compelling to watch. It gets campy towards its conclusion, but it's hilarious from start to finish. If there is ever a French revival of Chicago, I know who should direct, and I also have three actresses in mind as Roxie, Velma, and Mama Morton.
The Crime Is Mine hits theaters on December 25.