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Saturday, February 24, 2024

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“DRIVING MADELEINE”

THE STORY – A seemingly simple taxi ride across Paris evolves into a profound meditation on the realities of the driver, whose personal life is in shambles, and his fare, an elderly woman whose warmth belies her shocking past.

THE CAST – Line Renaud, Dany Boon & Alice Isaaz

THE TEAM – Christian Carion (Director/Writer) & Cyril Gely (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 91 Minutes


The chance meeting of strangers will always be fertile ground for intriguing stories. The collision of two random individuals without previous history provides the foundation for so much potential. A clash of personalities can instantly create a conflict that reveals a deeper connection that eventually evolves into a greater appreciation for perspective. These ventures can be endearing, but it is easy for them to be led astray by conventional trappings and unearned sentimentality. The curious thing about a film like “Driving Madeleine” is that it adheres to certain conventions while indulging in topics bringing much grander weight to the piece. Unfortunately, the final results end up being not the most engaging of portraits.

The story here opens on the plight of Charles (Dany Boon), a Parisian taxi driver struggling with his own set of personal problems as he makes his way collecting fares throughout the city. He gets a call regarding an impressive ride that should pay out big: a request to take an old woman to a nursing facility. He agrees and picks up Madeleine (Line Renaud) to take her to the new living facilities. Clearly, she is not enthusiastic about this new endeavor and seeks to strike up a conversation with Charles as a means of amusement. It is through these discussions she reveals the many outlandish elements of her past, which included a whirlwind romance with an American soldier during World War II, the abusive relationship she found herself in following the birth of her child, and the ensuing criminal case that fractured her life. The more she reminisces, the closer she and Charles become, with each taking a greater appreciation of the life they are sharing for this brief moment.

There is an initial expectation that one is going to be presented with a fairly straightforward narrative. The initial meeting sets up a familiar dichotomy, where two curmudgeon personalities separated by a generational divide soon come together after learning more about the other. While on the surface this is true, director Christian Carion takes the film into much darker subject matter. The flashbacks to the unfortunate circumstances of a young Madeleine showcase a horror show of spousal abuse and judicial malpractice, a dramatic tonal shift from the more light-hearted banter of the present-day scenes. It’s an imbalance that is jarringly felt, not least of which is also due to the forced and uninspired nature of the storytelling that triggers these looks back into the past. The plot is both simple yet also histrionic, ultimately leading to a shallow commentary in which what these characters discover about one another is only skin deep. The more shocking elements of the film could have been used to provide a more significant emotional impact, but instead, it comes across just as bland as the overall filmmaking.

It can be said that Boon and Renaud share a decent chemistry. Both inhabit particular archetypes and don’t find themselves too far out of those designated lanes. It’s a heightened frustration for Boon, though, as his role feels relatively empty. He does his best to play a man whose personal problems are told but never shown and, therefore, has a personality that feels manufactured and hollow. It’s quite a feat to know so little of a person despite being a main protagonist, and that is why he ends up being serviceable, if also unremarkable. Renaud makes a far greater impression as she is afforded lengthy scenes of oration. It’s still not the best delivery mechanism of characterization, but she displays a captivating, warm screen presence. Alice Isaaz, as the younger version of the character, also carries a compelling dramatic weight that makes those sequences far more tolerable. One is grateful for a cast that does its best with weak material.

One can see that “Driving Madeleine” has good intentions at its core. It clearly is a film that wants to illuminate the sad lives of two lonely individuals and the joy they find in each other’s company. It’s a well-known device that can be effectively employed. However, the execution here leaves much to be desired. The swerves between its past and present storylines do not tonally mesh together, creating a whiplash between its light and heavier aspects. The sentimentality isn’t earned at all, and despite the performer’s best efforts, the thinly constructed characters aren’t that memorable either. There always can be room to make an engrossing portrait out of common parts, but the exploration here is not very inviting despite its best efforts.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The performances from the cast are fine, particularly from Line Renaud, who showcases a warm and compelling screen presence.

THE BAD - The narrative has sharp tonal shifts that are jarring to witness, with a structure that includes uninspired flashbacks. The filmmaking is bland, and the storytelling indulges familiar archetypes with hollow characters.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 4/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>The performances from the cast are fine, particularly from Line Renaud, who showcases a warm and compelling screen presence.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The narrative has sharp tonal shifts that are jarring to witness, with a structure that includes uninspired flashbacks. The filmmaking is bland, and the storytelling indulges familiar archetypes with hollow characters.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>4/10<br><br>"DRIVING MADELEINE"