Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Gilded Cage

It's hard to write a review of The Gilded Cage without damning it with faint praise. While it was a perfectly satisfactory entertainment experience I can't help comparing it unfavourably with other more compelling French comedies.
Maria and Jose are well-assimilated Portuguese immigrants who have lived in Paris for the last thirty years. and their children were born in France.They're the caretakers of an apartment building and they live on site. Caretaking is Maria's full-time job whereas Jose is the foreman for a construction firm. Jose's estranged brother dies and leaves them the family home and business in Portugal on the proviso that they reside there. The dilemma they face is that having spent the last thirty years working hard and looking after other people they're not sure they'll be comfortable just looking after themselves. And having grown up in France, their children are not that keen to come.

Initially, Jose and Maria keep the news of their inheritance to themselves but Maria's sister reads the solicitor's letter when she's visiting and tells everyone she can think of  - in strict confidence, of course. So the residents of the apartment building and Jose's boss exert themselves to try and make Jose and Maria stay in Paris, which is all very self-centred of them. The other major plot strand is that Jose and Maria's daughter is dating/bonking  Jose's bosses son. In seems that the daughter of a Portuguese immigrant should not be consorting with a businessman's son ( read have a relationship outside their own social class and possibly also ethnic group) and they've gone to great lengths to keep the relationship secret.

The plot is really the downfall of the movie. To a New Zealand audience at least, the class difference aspect seems desperately old-fashioned and Jose and Maria's dilemma seems a bit of a no-brainer, so the drama is not that gripping. On the other hand, the plot isn't silly enough and the conspiracy of the friends and residents not funny enough for it to be one of the splendid farces that the French are so good at. That said the main characters are quite likeable, the film is amusing and there's a most satisfactory happy ending. It's a kind of celebration of the people in everyday life - family, friends, neighbours and co-workers and how they contribute to quality of your existence.

Anne's rating 2.5/5, Ian's rating 3/5.

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