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The Housekeeper

Love's a Mess

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By Marcy Dermansky

Émilie Dequenne in

Émilie Dequenne in "The Housekeeper"

"The Housekeeper" is a lovely film about sadness and mess, both inside and out, and how we are able to make ourselves feel better – temporarily.

In Claude Berri's May to December romance, Jacques (Jean-Pierre Bacri) has been left by his wife of fifteen years. Depressed, he lets his apartment fall into a state of utter disrepair. He hires a housekeeper, Laura, an irrepressible young woman with two-toned hair and housing issues of her own (rising young star Émilie Dequenne, who won Best Actress at Cannes for "Rosetta.") Jacques is reluctant when his housekeeper makes overtures towards his bed, but not very. Humans are weak, lonely creatures: who can resist pleasure when it is offered so freely and with such kindness?

It is clear to Jacques and to the audience that such an improbable relationship cannot work, but we root for it anyway. In this simple film, no one is right, no one is wrong (Berri's Jacques in no lecher.) In an attempt to preserve their love, they take a trip, Laura gets a disastrous haircut, and they spend their days at the beach. We also meet Jacques' friend Ralph, an eccentric artist who has a thing about chickens. Catherine Breillat (director of "Fat Girl" and "Romance") makes an appearance as Jacques regretful wife.

The bittersweet ending of "The Housekeeper" does not come as a surprise, but it is immensely satisfying--like a piece of good, dark chocolate. Jacques may not find lasting love with his young temptress, but his heart is open, and there is a world full of divorced, sexy French women in their prime. There are not many films out there that offer so much sweet pleasure.

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