Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind The Scenes Featurette.
THE spirit of Shakespeare in Love looms large over Molière, a lightweight French farce that doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of its intriguing concept.
Laurent Tirard’s film takes an imagined look at the missing years in the life of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin – aka Molière, “the father and true master of comic satire” – and the inspirations behind many of his greatest works.
It’s mid-17th Century Paris and the 22-year-old writer (played by Romain Duris) is languishing in prison for non-payment of debts and the failure of his theatre troupe.
He’s offered a way out by the wealthy Monsieur Jourdain (Fabrice Luchini) who will pay for his release on the condition that he helps him win the affection of a beautiful French countess (Ludivine Sagnier), even though he is married.
Molière reluctantly agrees to do so but then adds to an already farcical situation by falling in love with Jourdain’s wife (Laura Morante) and becoming involved in her daughter’s attempts to follow her heart against her father’s wishes.
At its best, Tirard’s film mixes bawdy romantic comedy with moments of heartfelt drama, especially during the scenes between Duris and Morante once things get serious between them. There are also some sly in-jokes for anyone with an appreciation of Molière’s work.
The film looks good, too, making the most of its lavish French locations, and it boasts some excellent performances from its four principal characters (Duris, in particular, stands out).
Sadly, Tirard struggles to sustain the momentum throughout, with a couple of tedious supporting characters serving to clutter up proceedings and drag things out – Edouard Baer’s scrounging aristocrat Dorante, especially, gets more screen-time than he warrants.
The film also lacks the epic grandeur of Madden’s Shakespeare In Love and ultimately struggles to escape the inevitable comparisons. But if you’re in the mood for some light-hearted romance with a Gallic twist then Molière provides a suitably sweet confection.
In French, with subtitles
Running time: 2hrs 1min