Is a Cinderella story that goes both ways, for what happens when Prince Charming needs to be rescued himself before he can save his Princess? The tale begins to calypso music and in a Belgium shopping mall where a woman wearing dark sunglasses and an expensive black coat with fur trim fingers through the makeup counter with a unique sense of urgency.
Odette, (played by Catherine Frot) an especially pretty middle aged sales associate with auburn hair reveals herself from behind a set of mirrors and asks what she can do to help. The lady removes her glasses to show a bruised eye and says she has a rash. Odette replies; "No problem, I have the right cover for you." And when she attempts to apply it to the lady's bruise, the woman winces and draws away.
Odette advises her to get a steak from one floor down to draw out the pain and swelling. The woman insists she wasn't beaten but walked into a door and Odette's response is; "Yeah, sure, I myself walked into many a door when I was in love." The lady walks off with the cover stick and Odette leaps up the escalator steps because "It's time!"
Her friend, who wears makeup and works in the books department asks her if today is one of special event, and Odette passes by without saying anything. She changes into a pretty, pink and beige suit (she has lovely clothes - that seem made beyond the working class, but it is a movie and a French one at that). Odette, with her hair done with light brown feathers, stops by the salon where her son is a hairdresser and asks him what he thinks of her countenance. He responds that she's dressed perfectly for a wedding as the mother in law.
She starts to feel bad and as she sits down begins to give excuses for why she should just skip the book signing of her favorite author, Balthazar Balsan, whom she has a deep crush on. Her son insists she goes and takes off the feathered piece which does improve the look dramatically somehow.
Once Odette is on the bus sans wedding hair thanks to her son, she asks the women, an elderly lady with incredibly pale, clear skin, next to her if this is the bus for Brussels. The lady asks her, "What?" And Odette says, "No, nevermind." The lady asks "What?" again and Odette eventually asks her if this is the bus to Brussels, while she is basically shouting into the woman's bad ear. "Yes, of course this is the bus to Brussels as it is marked so all over. Why? Am I on the wrong bus again?" A moment that is as gently realistic as it is awkwardly comedic.
Odette makes it to the book signing but when she meets Balsan, in an hysterical display of social anxiety, she nearly hits her beloved author in the face with her copy. He signs, but as he is asking her for her name, she blurts out, "Dette," and so he signs her book as such.
Our heroine is in tears at a cafe over the signing fiasco and there is nare a stranger to comfort her as what can anyone say? But while on the way back on the bus, Odette reads her novel and her embarrassment is forgotten as she floats in the air, rescued by her love for Balsan's words.
On her way home while still reading her novel she sees a man dressed early 90s style with long stringy hair and a plaid long sleeved shirt. He has a beard and is sweeping the porch outside of Odette's apartment building. "Ca va Jesus?" she asks. "Ca va," he responds while taking a drag from a cigarette and looking very drugged up.
The Jesus character is weaved throughout a film that could do without him. Perhaps his addition is an attempt to add a deeper motive to a romantic comedy, but it would be better without the symbolism of life, death and eternal powers. Some things are best when they are kept to what they are.
Odette returns from the signing to her world, where Josephine Baker's songs and Balsan's words are a godsend within her cramped apartment where she lives with her son and daughter, as well as the latter's boyfriend, whose feet stink and who never brings home a penny after tinkering with cars all day. Her favorite moments are of fantasies.
Balsan's life with a stunning wife who has a high end education and who looks out of his league, and their open marriage could not be of greater contrast to the adorable world of Odette. When Balsan's world falls apart, as complications from his and his spouse's affairs reach his professional life, he needs someone to understand and appreciate his work. He needs to be saved by a person separate from his current existence. And in this someone he finds Odette.
By Sarah Bahl