When her boss, Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas), starts to pay attention to Isabelle Guérin (Ludivine Sagnier) and her ideas, Isabelle sees her dreams to climb the corporate ladder coming to fruition. Although Christine claims Isabelle's ideas as her own, she sends Isabelle to Cairo with colleague Philippe (Patrick Mille) to finalise a deal, which ends well - both professionally and personally. Daniel (Guillaume Marquet) meanwhile, encourages Isabelle to work on a few accounts without giving her ideas to Christine. But Christine thrives on manipulation and is blackmailing Philippe and humiliating Isabelle - pushing Isabelle to desperate measures.
Review by Louise Keller:
Ambition at any price is the theme of this riveting psychological thriller in which Ludivigne Sagnier and Kristin Scott Thomas go head to head in a tale that is a study in tension. What sucks us in is the disarming ease in which director Alain Corneau (in his last film, co-written with Nathalie Carter) weaves his scenario about power play in the workplace, sexual politics, manipulation and revenge. The plot surprises too, heading in an unexpected direction with the change in dynamic adding to the mix. But it is the sublime performances of Sagnier and Scott Thomas that elevate the film beyond our expectations.
In a tantalizing opening sequence, we meet Sagnier's bespectacled Isabelle, working conscientiously after hours in the comfortable home of her boss Christine (Scott Thomas). It is the sexual implications that are disconcerting. Christine flirts unashamedly with her intelligent, precise and almost obsessive colleague before turning her sexual attentions to another colleague, Philippe (Patrick Mille), who has just arrived. It is in the next few scenes that we witness first hand Christine's two-faced manipulative skills, which she employs with the charm of a scorpion. Reminiscent at times of The Devil Wears Prada and Working Girl, Christine seemingly takes Isabelle under her wing, as if grooming her to be more than a team player, but Christine is always thinking about herself. There are more complications in the workplace when Isabelle and Philippe have an affair. But Daniel (Guillaume Marquet) appears to be an ally, encouraging Isabelle to claim credit for her own work, instead of allowing Christine to bask in the glory.
Sagnier makes full use of her saucer eyes and onscreen vulnerability, while Scott Thomas is chillingly callous as the tough business woman who is prepared to use all her wiles to get her way. Just when tensions reach boiling point, there's a twist and the film takes the form of a who-dun-it, except that we know who the perpetrator is. Pay attention to the clues - there's a call to the doctor, pills, a knife a garden shed, scratches and a scarf with a rip. There's a little dip in the prison sequences when our credence is tested but I like the use of black and white as key scenes are recreated to portray what really happened. The film's final scenes are nicely conceived, allowing the story to end as provocatively as it begins.
First published in the Sun-Herald
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With just the faintest echo of Working Girl (1988), Love Crime takes female rivalry to its ultimate conclusion. Where Melanie Griffiths' Tess was the smart secretary to Sigourney Weaver's bony-assed Katharine, Ludivigne Sagnier's Isabelle is the clever underling to Kristin Scott Thomas' manager, Christine. There's a man here, too, though not quite in the Harrison Ford class, but a man nonetheless, Philippe (Patrick Mille), who becomes something of a pawn in this high stakes game of corporate chess.
But unlike the screenplay for Working Girl, which takes us into its confidence with the mergers and acquisitions strategy, the story of Love Crime avoids referring to what it is exactly that this multinational business does. That's a pity not because it matters to the story, but because it robs the conflicts of some context.
It's a thriller about relationships as a lever to power and influence. Christine is a control freak and an unashamedly ambitious manipulator. Scott Thomas makes the most of the roles' complexities, showing her disarmingly charming and warm side before turning into a snake. Sagnier is wonderfully vulnerable as the talented negotiator whose ideas fuel Christine's success. But her wiles don't stop at business schemes as we find out.
Sadly, writer/director Alain Corneau died just a week after the film's French premiere. He should have felt satisfied though that his last film celebrates the art of tense storytelling and his two female stars gave him superb performances.
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LOVE CRIME (M)
CAST: Ludivine Sagnier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Patrick Mille, Guillaume Marquet, Gerald Laroche
PRODUCER: Said Ben Said
DIRECTOR: Alain Corneau
SCRIPT: Alain Corneau, Nathalie Carter
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yves Angelo
EDITOR: Thierry Derocles
MUSIC: Pharoah Sanders
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Katia Wyszkop
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 4, 2011