The Bridesmaid, 2004

When the attractive widow Christine (Aurore Clément) asks her children for permission to offer a statue in their garden – a gift from their late father – as a housewarming present to her new beau Gérard Courtois (Bernard Le Coq), the eldest child, Philippe (Benoît Magimel) appears visibly disconcerted by the proposal, but nevertheless acquiesces for the sake of unanimity and subsequently insists on personally hand carrying the object to Gérard’s home. However, it seems that the nature of his apprehension does not stem from a suppressed Oedipal rage or the traumatic idea of Gérard taking the place of his late father, but rather, from a curious attachment to the statue itself: an idealized image of classical beauty that would seem to have come to life in the soulful and enigmatic gaze of his sister’s beautiful and alluring bridesmaid, Senta (Laura Smet). Living alone in the basement of a large, dilapidated country estate (and apart from her estranged stepmother and her lover who live two floors above) that she had inherited from her father, Senta’s obscure personal history would seem to be as near-mythic as the Hellenic statue that she resembles: an Icelandic mother who died in childbirth, a reckless, disreputable past as an exotic dancer in New York City, an evil stepmother who has emotionally abandoned her to pursue a career as a tango dancer. Aroused by Senta’s uninhibited desire and touched by her fragile vulnerability, Philippe is all too willing to embark on Senta’s seemingly operatic (and fated) course of romantic destiny, and in the process, becomes increasingly entangled in her myopic – and delusive – quest for love and loyalty. Adapted from the novel by Ruth Rendell (whose novel La Cérémonie also provided the basis for the earlier Claude Chabrol film), The Bridesmaid exhibits a similarly deceptive and slow-building narrative crescendo as La Ceremonie and is bolstered by the fine performances of Benoît Magimel as the bumbling, eager to please lover and in particular, Laura Smet as the emotionally needy seductress. However, the film ultimately suffers from an almost caricatured – and incongruent – lighthearted direction which creates tonal inconsistency from the film’s gradually unravelling mystery. Recalling the oppressively hermetic bohemianism of his earlier film Les Biches, the film serves as a competent, though superficial psychological examination of obsession, rootlessness, and co-dependency.

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