What to Rent
Written by Bwog Staff
In which Blue and White film savant Iggy Cortez gives you another reason to love the French. This week’s selection is Read My Lips.
If you, like many Columbia students, are waiting until the very last moment to fill out your tax returns, Jacques Audiard’s smart yet entertaining thriller-cum-noir, Read My Lips should provide both fun escapism from stress yet abundant incentive not to mess with money matters.
Emmanuelle Devos, one of France’s most talented and magnetic actresses, stars as Carla, a mousey, hearing-impaired secretary whose attempts to advance in a real-estate firm are continuously thwarted by sadistic colleagues. Afraid that she is overworked, her boss encourages her to find an assistant. Against all common sense, she hires Paul, played by Vincent Cassel (the charismatic bad boys of all charismatic bad boys), an ex-con with close to no qualifications except, perhaps, that he looks amazing unshowered and in a leather jacket. But all kindness comes at a price, and in return for the job, Carla convinces Paul to use his skills as a thief to steal a file from a colleague, a move that triggers an unlikely alliance between the two that is part survival, part sexual tension. Largely due to money he owes some thugs, the office life becomes too boring and not well paid enough for Paul, so when he devices a flawless plan to steal money from some Parisian gang lords, he co-opts Carla’s help, due to her secret talent for reading lips. Naturally, things don’t go as planned, and it is in the messiness of the detour that the film’s inventive and audacious plot-twists begin to grip our interest in a way Hollywood thrillers have long ceased to do.
While Read My Lips is not exactly earth-shatteringly profound, its merits are in meeting intelligence with sheer entertainment, in a manner free of gimmicks or sentimentality, yet not deprived of that wonderful duo of sex and violence. Audiard’s stylish directing is matched by a well-informed instinct in knowing when exactly to practice restraint, that not only saves his film from being like a pointlessly flashy videogame, but that also gives it its necessary, riveting tension. Inflected with just the right amounts of psycho-sexual character development to give it a certain weight and depth, Read My Lips is perfect viewing for when you feel like reveling in the viewer complicity the thriller demands, without feeling like you are turning into a vegetable.
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