My Piece of the Pie is a two-hander that juxtaposes a union worker who is a single mother of three against a wealthy singleton and international trader. The result is a contemporary moral fable of retribution that, from a distance, mirrors reality.
The classically constructed script is rich in dichotomies. Klapisch goes as far as to name his central character France. Played by well-known actress Karin Viard, a frequent collaborator, the character represents family, community and solidarity — traditional values of the nation. “It's a common name so maybe it's less striking in France,” said the French director, at the Q&A following his Tribeca Film Festival screening. “She's an average French woman. The society is changing very quickly in France now and I thought it was relevant.”
My Pie of the Pie starts, quite literally, with the title image. It's a children's birthday party and the cake is lit. Intercut is an affluent London office, home base of Steve Delarue (Gilles Lellouche), a 35 year-old French ex-pat taking his own (very large) piece of the pie. He returns to Paris after 10 years away at the suggestion of his boss, who has a plan for him to make even more money. Here the two worlds collide.
Klapisch wrote the part of France especially for Viard. “She's one of the best actresses in France,” he says. “I wrote for Karin because for me, no one else was able to play that part.” For the character of her counterpoint, Steve, Klapisch had to go in a different direction than originally planned. “I initially had Vincent Cassel in mind but he was called to do Black Swan. I would have had to wait a year. I decided to work with someone else, someone less known. With Gilles there is more humour in the character. It was very difficult to play that part because he had to be mean and negative and we had to dislike him in so many ways. And we had to like him too. It's hard to do both: to be seductive and hateable.”
Klapisch was inspired to make the film because of the 2008 financial meltdown and the resulting social crisis. Wanting to bring to light the situation in France as it stands now, the writer/director researched traders and the financial world and even cast some of them in the film. “There are a lot of things in mise-en-scène that are between documentary and fiction movies,” he says. “I mixed non-actors and actors. It's more difficult, more demanding for the director. You can't really speak the same way to those who know how to act in front of the camera and those who do not.”
The location of France's family and working life echoes this blend of fiction and non-fiction. “Dunkirk, in France, is representative of work,” he says. “It's about industry and about people who make things. When you go to Dunkirk, you have companies, the steel companies are in Dunkirk; you have boats and trains. Dunkirk is about making things and reality. The opposition between the two characters is really about someone who lives in virtuality and someone who lives in reality. Dunkirk is very real.”
Producing more questions than answers is all part of the director's strategy for My Piece of the Pie. “I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow,” he says. “The end is a question and I thought it was better to leave you, the audience, asking yourself what should happen.” That said, Klapisch remains optimistic about the future. “You must trust that even something that seems unbeatable can be beaten. The strongest tyrants and dictators can be beat.”