France (Karin Viard), a factory worker, lives with her three daughters in Dunkirk, in northern France. The factory she worked at has closed, leaving France and all of her workmates without a job. She decides to go to Paris to look for work. She enrols in a training course to become a cleaner and soon finds a job at the home of a man whose world is radically different from her own. The man, named Steve (Gilles Lellouche), is a successful trader working between the City of London and the Defense district of Paris. These two individuals' paths cross, bringing France in contact with people who live a life of luxury, until she discovers that this attractive and likeable man is partly responsible for the closure of the factory where she used to wor
FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL: Cédric Klapisch’s over-ripe melodrama My Piece of the Pie is a preposterous, unengaging tale of a loathsome financial hotshot and his winsome cleaning lady.
The characters serve more as mouthpieces for the writer-director’s anti-capitalist sentiments and his sympathies for those whom he identifies as the victims of a corrupt system than as credible, flawed humans.
Although the film is flagged as a 2011 production, debuting in France in March of that year, it seems to be set in a timeless vacuum: there’s no discernible hint of the global financial crisis or its aftermath.
The tone lurches from fluffy comedy to heavy handed satire, fleeting romance and overwrought drama, thus lacking a consistent, coherent voice from an accomplished filmmaker whose credits include the superbly entertaining Paris, L’Auberge Espagnole and Ni Pour, Ni Contre.
Hence a talented cast led by Karin Viard and Gilles Lellouche struggles to cope with their crudely sketched, stereotyped characters and the screenplay’s wildly implausible twists and turns.
Any sense of realism is undermined right at the start as Viard’s France Leroi (yes, we get the symbolism of her Christian name), a 42-year-old single mum with three daughters, overdoses on pills after being laid off from the Dunkirk factory where she’d toiled for 20 years.
Her girls are understandably distraught but France recovers remarkably quickly without expressing regret over her selfish and reckless act and soon lands a job in Paris as the cleaner for Lellouche’s Stéphane, or Steve, Delarue.
After 10 years as a predatory, take-no-prisoners financial trader in London, 35-year-old Delarue has just been asked to open an office in Paris, where he lives in a palatial apartment.
Klapisch makes no secret of his left-wing political views as he concocts a conversation in which Steve’s pompous Pommy boss tells him, 'Business is always us against the other guy. It’s not for good people," to which he replies, 'I’m bad."
He sure is, the epitome of a greedy, ruthless and unethical banker. And he’s an odious jerk in his private life, embarking in his private plane with a gorgeous French model he’d met in London for a romantic interlude in Venice; he gets the shits when she refuses to sleep with him on the first date, insisting "I have to feel something," and forces himself on her the next morning.
The character finally gets to show the first skerrick of humanity when his ex-wife dumps their cute three-year-old son Alban (Lunis Sakji) with him for a month while she goes abroad. He’s such a clueless father he begs France to care for the boy as his nanny and she gives him some badly needed lessons in responsible parenting.
When France discovers Delarue was complicit in the financial machinations which led to the closure of her factory she resolves to take revenge with a desperate act which I doubt any sane, sensible woman and mother would ever contemplate.
A resourceful actress, the vivacious Viard portrays her as essentially decent and well-meaning so her rash behaviour makes no sense.
The arrival of Steve’s ex-girlfriend Mélody (Raphaële Godin), evidently the only woman he ever truly loved, also is intended to show his softer side, but his transformation from a selfish, insensitive pig to at least a semblance of a human being never rings true.
The music is an odd pastiche of rock, pop and ballads plus one golden oldie, Roy Orbison’s 'Pretty Woman’, which gives rise to one of the few amusing scenes as France and her daughters dance along to the tune in a supermarket.