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My Piece of the Pie (2011)
My Piece of the Pie is a 2011 comedy film written and directed by Cédric Klapisch.
Steve Delarue, played by a charmingly villainous Gilles Lellouche, is a complete and utter shit, which is a credit to writer/director Cedric Klapisch's My Piece of the Pie. As Lellouche plays him, Delarue, a high-ranking stocks man, is a stunning misogynist and something bordering on anti-humanist; a "very bad man" according to his approving superior, who is grooming him to be his successor. The only hurdle Delarue must overcome is a stint as the head of a hedge fund in Paris. Unfortunately, he also has to look after his son, the unwanted product of one of his notoriously disastrous relationships.
Delarue's persona and his actions, consisting solely of things that benefit him first and others second, make up the core of Klapisch's film, but the movie belongs to the not-so-subtly-named France (Karin Viard), a single mother with three kids of her own and a slew of adopted kids living in a small home in Dunkirk. The film opens on her mid-birthday party suicide attempt, a reaction to being laid off by the factory she had worked at for over 20 years. Left with little fiscal choice, she leaves her kids with her sister and moves to Paris, where she finishes a cleaning-lady course and quickly finds a job cleaning Delarue's posh, expansive apartment.
The whiff of class warfare and romance is present from the very set-up, as is the specter of Gary Marshall's unbearable Pretty Woman, and it gets even more palpable when Delarue hires France to play nanny to his son. The relationship is refreshingly detached, at least at first, and Klapisch keeps the energy buoyant and largely unpredictable. There is a note of satire here, as Delarue is essentially hiring France to be what he imagines a wife should be, and France is all too happy to oblige in return for a hefty, steady salary.
At once a metaphor for the country of her namesake and a paradigm of the lower-middle class, both in her fiscal and social struggles and her ambivalence towards class solidarity, Viard's splendid performance dominates the film, both matching and embodying the fleet-footed, sardonic comic energy that powers Klapisch's film, or at least the first three-quarters of it. Around the time Delarue and France indulge in a spirited, no-strings-attached one night stand, the film takes a dark turn, spurred by the predictable revelation that Delarue helped liquidate France's previous employer. A ludicrously abrupt kidnapping plot sends the film into a tailspin, underlining its half-measured fascination with feminine behavior.
There is something to be said for a film that allows a potential redemption tale to burn all the way to the blasting cap but, in this case, the hysterical turn feels sudden and unearned. As does the overall cynicism of the work, but Lellouche sells Klapisch's vision of excess unbound nicely, enough to keep the brains cool until the film's climactic rug-pulling. I wouldn't call it manipulative, exactly, but the path Klapisch takes to rap the knuckles of both classes feels like a construct meant solely to provoke hollowly. One wishes he'd have opted to let the film follow the characters into something potentially enlightening.