Gemma Bovery

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - Gemma Bovery, drama, rated R, in French and English with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3 chiles

MOV­ING IM­AGES

To rein­ter­pret Tol­stoy: Happy housewives may be happy in their own ways, but bored housewives, it seems, are all like Madame Bo­vary. Es­pe­cially if they share (al­most) a name with Flaubert’s fa­mous adul­ter­ess, the ill-fated Emma Bo­vary, who yearned for es­cape from her hum­drum life and paid the price.

This soft, pleas­ing up­dat­ing of the literary clas­sic brings a beau­ti­ful young English ma­tron, Gemma Bovery (Gemma Arter­ton), and her hus­band, Charles ( Jason Fle­myng), to ru­ral Nor­mandy, where they’ve moved to es­cape Lon­don’s bus­tle. The im­me­di­ate source of the film’s ma­te­rial is a satiric graphic novel by Posy Sim­monds, the Bri­tish writer/car­toon­ist also known for her Far From the Madding Crowd graphic up­date, Ta­mara

Drew, which also be­came a movie star­ring Arter­ton. Gemma Bovery’s story, mostly in French sprin­kled with some English, is re­vealed from the sad-eyed per­spec­tive of Martin Jou­bert (Fabrice Lu­chini), her neigh­bor across the way. Jou­bert is the lo­cal baker, in semi-re­tire­ment from his life as a Parisian book editor, and with his literary lean­ings, he sees and projects the Flaubert story onto his pretty new neigh­bor.

Di­rec­tor Anne Fon­taine (Coco Be­fore Chanel) leads us in from the end, where Jou­bert dis­cov­ers the dis­traught Charles burn­ing the de­parted Gemma’s ef­fects, be­cause they are too painful to keep. While Charles is briefly dis­tracted, Jou­bert plucks Gemma’s di­ary from the burn pile and slips it un­der his coat. From his read­ing of it, and his oc­ca­sional nar­ra­tion, we dis­cover in flash­back Gemma’s doomed path as it con­verges with and de­parts from the life of her fa­mous literary name­sake.

Gemma doesn’t quite suf­fer the pas­sion­ate dis­con­tent of Flaubert’s hero­ine, but she still man­ages to find her way into an af­fair that easily echoes the book’s ro­mance. But Fon­taine has a lot more fun with it than Flaubert did. One par­tic­u­larly droll mo­ment has Jou­bert en­coun­ter­ing Gemma on a coun­try lane just as she is stung on her back un­der her dress by a bee. When, flus­tered, he tells her that the only way to re­move the venom is by suck­ing it out, she or­ders him in no un­cer­tain terms to get on with it.

The Boverys’ house turns out to have a mouse prob­lem, and Gemma buys rat poi­son to get rid of the varmints. Jou­bert is hor­ri­fied — the poi­son con­tains ar­senic, which plays into his fa­tal­is­tic Flaubert sce­nario. But the movie’s story has a few twists and tricks left up its sleeve.

Arter­ton brings a clas­sic English rose­like beauty to her char­ac­ter, and the whole cast is good, but it is Lu­chini’s ob­ses­sive, nosy, in­fat­u­ated baker that makes the dough rise. — Jonathan Richards

Mrs. Bovery, I’m try­ing to se­duce you: Gemma Arter­ton and Niels Sch­nei­der

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