Review: Ma part du gateau (2011)


Ma part du gateau (2011)

Directed by: Cédric Klapisch | 109 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Karin Viard, Gilles Lellouche, Audrey Lamy, Jean-Pierre Martins, Raphaële Godin, Fred Ulysse, Kevin Bishop, Marine Vacth, Flavie Bataille, Tim Pigott-Smith, Philippe Lefebvre, Lunis Sakji

Cedric Klapisch became known for ensemble films full of colorful characters, such as ‘L’auberge espagnole’ (2001) and ‘Les poupées russes’ (2004); apparently light-hearted films with a hint of melancholy. In ‘Ma part du gâteau’ (2011) he also balances on the thin line between comedy and drama, with the difference that here he focuses on only two central characters. Their characters couldn’t have been more different. France (Karin Viard) is a single mother of three growing daughters, living in a working-class neighborhood in Dunkirk and working in the same factory for twenty years. At least she was, because at the beginning of the film – during one of her girls’ birthday party, of course – she makes a suicide attempt after losing her job.

After she has her back, and with some help from a friend, France leaves for Paris, willing to take any job and ends up in a cleaning crew consisting mainly of immigrant women. She is allowed to work in the immense apartment of Stéphane ‘Steve’ Delarue (Gilles Lellouche), a shrewd stock trader with an insufferable character. He is France’s opposite in everything: where she is humane, he is a misanthrope. His life is all about making a profit, regardless of the chunks he makes along the way. He cannot maintain relationships. When one of his exes suddenly shows up on the doorstep with their four-year-old son and the announcement that she is going to Thailand for a month, he has to rely on France’s goodness. Because she is paid heavily for it, she takes up his full-time babysitter at his request for four weeks.

The rich stinker and the working class girl: the story is reminiscent of ‘Pretty Woman’ (1987). Fortunately, ‘Ma part du gâteau’ is not as predictable as that romantic comedy, there is too much irony in the film for that. Unfortunately, subtlety is hard to find, for that Klapisch paints the worlds of his two protagonists far too black and white. He can get away with that as long as the film remains light-hearted, but in the last quarter of ‘Ma part du gâteau’ the atmosphere suddenly changes and it suddenly becomes grimmer. And then it suddenly starts to twist. Fortunately, the film with Karin Viard has a great eye-catcher. As France (a name that is not completely out of thin air – we already said that the subtlety is hard to find…) she is a rock in the surf for her entire environment, although she is little appreciated for that. Viard delivers a strong performance, just like Lellouche by the way, but his role is much more caricatured to really appeal to the imagination.

Because Klapisch wants to provide the necessary social criticism (and, for example, wants to address class inequality) and at the same time wants to present his story as light-hearted as possible, the balance is lost. The tone of the last half hour is completely different from the rest of the film. What starts out promising, quickly gets bogged down in clichés and predictability. The fact that ‘Ma part du gâteau’ still survives is due to the excellent acting of Karin Viard in particular, who not only portrays a sympathetic but also credible folk heroine.”

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