A fairly decent French language film set in the late 1950’s that very much apes the feel of Audrey Hepburn’s ‘Funny Face’ (57) but which isn’t quite as enjoyable as that classic musical number, in fact it’s almost too light and fluffy for its own good, but with a warm heart that ultimately just wins out over predictability and comedy that never really does more than tickle lightly. It stars Romain Duris as insurance salesman Louis Échard looking for a new secretary – enter Déborah François as the young and very beautiful small town ingenue Rose Pamphyle who will fill the position after demonstrating excessively rapid typing skills, to the extent that Louis feels compelled to enter her into regional speed typing tournaments, and to train her to realise her full typewriting championship potential.
It’s immediately obvious that a romance can hardly fail to develop, and Duris’ character fills the boots of the ‘douche bag guy who will inevitably come good in the end’, but whilst Duris’ performance nor his character are particularly convincing, Déborah François is what really sells the picture, giving a strong and very affable portrayal of the clumsy and yet determined Rose, and surprisingly the fairly dull sounding competition of speed typing becomes reasonably interesting – they even manage to fit in a ‘Rocky’ style training montage at one point.
Bérénice Bejo plays a supporting character that aids in no small way the budding romance, but also teaches Rose to play piano – ostensibly to aid her digital adroitness, but also nodding to the most famous roles of both lead actors to date; ‘The Page Turner’ (06) for François, and ‘The Beat that my Heart Skipped’ (05) for Duris, in which he also played an angry twat who somehow gets the girl by shouting at her in a fit of rage at one point, if memory serves. Indeed, in one scene here Rose gives him a good slap, and he’s just as quick to give her a good one right back – it’s very French, but also perhaps another nod to a moment in ‘Funny Face’ with a Parisian couple sitting outside a nightclub, the female member of which is angrily shouting at her male partner, who, naturally, slaps her across the face, and she promptly responds by hugging and kissing him passionately. ‘Populaire’ takes its name from the brand of typewriter Rose uses, and marks the feature film debut of Régis Roinsard.