‘The Crime Is Mine’ Review

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“The Crime Is Mine,” a whimsical creation by the tireless French filmmaker François Ozon, embraces a playful pastiche style akin to “Potiche” and “8 Women,” laden with extravagant wigs and furs courtesy of the costume department. This film revels less in onscreen antics and more in its mood board of fashion and cinematic influences—evoking Jean Renoir, Billy Wilder, and vintage Chanel. It fizzes away fleetingly, leaving an impression akin to an unremarkable bottle of sparkling wine from an unknown brand. Set in 1930s Paris, this tale follows an aspiring stage star facing trial for the murder of a prominent impresario, merging elements reminiscent of Roxie Hart confronting Norma Desmond in a rollicking Parisian backdrop.

While rooted in a nearly 90-year-old play by Georges Berr and Louis Verneuil, which previously inspired Hollywood screwball comedies like “True Confession” and “Cross My Heart,” Ozon’s adaptation infuses a contemporary dose of post-#MeToo gender dynamics. The narrative pivots on whether the bombshell protagonist is guilty or not, steering towards a fervent defense of a woman’s right to safeguard herself from unwanted patriarchal advances, regardless of the means. Notably, the portrayal of her attorney as a female confidante, rather than a traditional male love interest, amplifies the stakes. However, this earnest feminist theme contrasts with the overall lighthearted tone of the film.

The story centers on Madeleine, an aspiring actress entangled in a murder case, and her relationship with her financially struggling attorney roommate Pauline. Madeleine’s involvement with a timid heir takes a backseat to her theatrical aspirations and entanglements. As the prime suspect in the murder of the influential theater producer Montferrand, Madeleine initially denies involvement but soon crafts an alternative narrative, citing Montferrand’s history of inappropriate behavior towards actresses.

The narrative navigates through courtroom drama, tabloid sensation, and societal perceptions, elevating Madeleine to overnight stardom. Isabelle Huppert’s character, a faded silent-movie star, injects a surge of energy into the film in its later stages. However, despite potential clashes and subversive possibilities, the storyline veers away from expected confrontations, instead opting for solidarity among women.

While hinting at darker comedic prospects and a play on gender dynamics, the film curtails its potential for farcical escalation. It leaves viewers with passing pleasures—the polished cinematography by Manu Dacosse and the sumptuousness of production and costume designs. However, unlike Ozon’s earlier work, “The Crime Is Mine” doesn’t strive for the same postmodern formal rigor. Ultimately, it positions itself as a light diversion, content with its effortlessness.