GEMMA BOVERY (France | UK/15A/99mins)
Directed by Anne Fontaine. Starring Gemma Arterton, Fabrice Luchini, Jason Flemyng, Neils Schneider, Mel Raido
THE PLOT: Gemma (Gemma Arterton) and her husband Charlie (Jason Flemyng) move from London to a small French village. There, they catch the attention of Martin (Fabrice Luchini), a baker who moved home from Paris to take over his father’s bakery. Although the couples become friendly, Martin becomes fascinated with Gemma, and the fact that her behaviour seems to so closely resemble that of Gustave Flaubert’s famous character Emma Bovary.
THE VERDICT: Based on a serialised cartoon in The Guardian – which was later published as a book in 1999 – by Posy Simmonds, GEMMA BOVERY is the tale of life imitating art… And nosy neighbours.
Gemma Arterton is lovely in the leading role; she is charming and sweet, but sometimes it feels as though she is the subject of so much attention because she is the youngest person in the town, not the most captivating. Fabrice Luchini has perfected his hangdog expression and his comic timing over his career, so it is no surprise that he is strong here. Jason Flemyng, Niels Schneider and Mel Raido have less to do as Gemma’s various lovers, and Elsa Zylberstein does well enough as Gemma’s neighbour Wizzy, but again, doesn’t have an awful lot to do.
The story, written for the screen by Pascal Bonitzer and Anne Fontaine is mostly told through the eyes of the nosy neighbour Martin, and there are some nice devices used, such as Martin giving exposition by talking to his dog. That said, point of view switches several times throughout the film, so it is often unclear whether events are actually happening, or Martin simply believes that they are. As well as this, although it is often referenced that Gemma is bored by provincial life, there is little evidence of this on screen, so the characters motivations are often muddled.
As director Anne Fontaine starts out strong, but as the film goes on and the affairs begin to materialise, it seems that she loses her grasp on the film, with it almost turning into a farce from time to time. The pacing is also messy, with relationships springing up from nowhere and disappearing just as quickly. The overall effect is a slight and enjoyable but forgettable film, which gently errs on the side of silly.
GEMMA BOVERY is an interesting idea for a film, but it seems that this particular story would have worked better in print, as it is just a little too slight to justify a film. Gemma Arterton is lovely, however, and Fabrice Luchini is well able to carry the film; it’s just a shame that the story, style and conviction of the film are not stronger.
Rating: 2.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Gemma Bovery
Review by Brogen Hayes
2.5Slight and light
  • filmbuff2011

    Ahh… the French. There’s something about their films that makes them so easy and enjoyable to watch. Gemma Bovery is another delightful confection from director Anne Fontaine, who previously made Coco Before Chanel. This film focuses on Martin (Fabrice Luchini), who has left Paris to pursue a much quieter life as a gourmet baker in a small French village. The very same village that inspired Gustave Flaubert to create his tragic, bored heroine Madame Bovery. New English neighbours move in next door and Martin is intrigued that they are Gemma Bovery (Gemma Arterton) and her husband Charlie (Jason Flemyng). Martin sees an immediate resemblance in Gemma to Flaubert’s heroine and sets out to discover more about her life. In doing so, he discovers that she is set on a similar path of self-destruction to Madame Bovery. Or at least, that’s what he thinks. But there’s a lot more going on here than Martin knows… Gemma Bovery is souffle-light and mildly diverting, but it isn’t as satisfying as one of Martin’s gourmet baguettes. It gets by largely on the bemused charms of Luchini, a wonderful actor with great comic timing and sense of world-weariness, like a French Jason Bateman. His musings and longings about Gemma make for quite a few chuckles – ‘there goes 10 years of sexual tranquility’ he muses on first glancing her. Arterton rarely disappoints and she gives an eye-catching, if not heart-stopping, performance as Martin’s object of desire. Adapted by Fontaine and Pascal Bonitzer from Posy Simmonds’ novel, Gemma Bovery relies a little too much on happy co-incidences. Trying a satisfying conclusion from three different perspectives is a bit much too. But the last scene is hilarious enough to make this an enjoyable, if not quite essential, viewing. Bon, Madame Fontaine. ***