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TIFF: France

Celebrity journalist France de Meurs (Léa Seydoux) is recognized everywhere she goes. She hosts one of France’s top news shows and is known for her provocative interviews and her exceptional war coverage. What folks don’t see is the real woman behind-the-scenes. She’s a master manipulator who will do anything for the best shot. It doesn’t help that her trusted assistant Lou (Blanche Gardin) eggs her on. France’s marriage to Fred (Benjamin Biolay) is in shambles, her son wants nothing to do with her and her celebrity status affords her little by way of privacy. An accident caused by France triggers her emotional breakdown where she must face personal truths amidst all the lies she’s created for herself.

Written and directed by Bruno Dumont, France is a hot mess saved by its brilliant star Léa Seydoux. It feels overly long with scenes that linger long after what seems like their natural end.  And some scenes could have been cut out entirely.

One of the strengths of the film is how the story and its title character gets under your skin. This film is intended to make the audience squirm in their seat and it does that quite effectively.  France de Meurs is an unlikable character and Seydoux adds the intensity and humanity the viewer needs to even be invested in her story. 

Dumont’s story casts a critical eye on the falseness of the media, the dehumanization caused by celebrity culture and the negative perception of women in powerful roles. And Seydoux is the messenger of all of the film’s big messages. I just wish the film was a bit shorter and had more of a focus.

Kudos to costume designer Alexandra Charles. Léa Seydoux’s wardrobe in the film is absolutely stupendous. I wanted to reach through the screen and pluck out each and every outfit to add them to my closet.

France is part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival’s Special Presentations slate.

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