Director: Valérie Donzelli
Writers: Valérie Donzelli, Dorothée Sebbagh
Cast: Valérie Donzelli, Jérémie Elkaïm, Lucía Sánchez and Béatrice De Staël
Original release date: 2009
Rated: Not rated (some language, nudity)
Film is distributed by Film Movement | Trailer | IMDb
aka La reine des pommes
Breakup movies are often very much the same: the main character suffers from a broken heart, can’t go over her ex, and we can usually predict how it plays out in the end. The Queen of Hearts is no exception to this stereotype, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. This French gem also has a unique take on the genre that winds up making it stand out miles from films toting similar plots.
Adèle (played by director/co-writer Valérie Donzelli) suffered a painful breakup, comically played out in the opening scene. She cries for days, that is until her friend (Lucía Sánchez) gives her some sedatives and leaves her on a park bench. There is also a cute opening sequence showing Adèle in numerous other unfortunate situations which, while maybe seeming a bit pretentious at first, really serves as introducing us to the quirky Adèle.
Things really took an unexpected twist for me when the first song broke out. Not knowing much about the film before watching, this aspect caught me off guard. The already offbeat movie got a little more peculiar with this, but it does it consistently which keeps it from getting too far out of hand. The songs, which are in French, sound great and the lyrics are shockingly funny. While I’m typically not a huge fan of musicals, it’s not overdone here and keeps up the vibe of the rest of the film.
As mentioned, the story itself at its core isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. The film manages to take the overused plot however, and make it interesting and hilariously unique. Adèle ends up staying with her cousin, Rachel (Béatrice De Staël), who convinces her to get over her heartbreak by seeing other men. Adèle does this, leading her on an adventure of unusual, funny, and creepy encounters. I don’t want to give away a certain detail relating to these encounters, but when I found out (hint: watch the ending credits if you don’t pick up on it right away) it made it all the more funny and at the same time illuminating.
I really have to hand it to Valérie Donzelli. She had the incredibly difficult job of both directing and starring, and ends up pulling off both spectacularly. As Adèle she is lovable, silly, and undoubtedly human. It’s no surprise Donzelli wrote the part relating to herself, as the she seems very natural in the role. I hope to see more of this multi-talented mademoiselle both in front of and behind the camera as she emits a welcomed charm through both.
I couldn’t help but want to compare this film to Amélie. Aside from being French, they both feature zany and cute female leads and equally unique styles. I was pleased that The Queen of Hearts strayed from being an Amélie knockoff. The film manages to avoid falling into the trap that so many do, which is getting itself pigeonholed by either not being original enough, or trying too hard to be avant-garde that it appears too similar to others doing the same. I found myself really caring about Adèle and how her story would end, even when I already had an idea from the beginning. How it’s played out is wildly hilarious, but also at the same time real and emotional.The Queen of Hearts is a fine example of a conventional story told in an unconventional way.