Populaire is a curious film. Almost anything set in the recent(ish) past nowadays has to do so with a sly nod and wink in some way, acknowledging how the world has changed, or glorying in the way things used to be. Aside from one mention of smoking laws, there’s none of that here. Instead, aside from the crispness of the cinematography and one unnecessarily graphic* love scene, this is a film that could have been made in the 50s – it exists in this world rather than reflects back our own.
But let’s get back to the start. Populaire is a French romantic comedy that manages to do two things which most mainstream romcoms fail to do nowadays – namely be both romantic and comedic. In rural Normandy, a young village girl applies for a secretarial job in a nearby town. She gets it, despite being a klutz, due to her phenomenal typing speed. Her new boss, Louis, wants to enter her in the regional typing championships, with an aim at, ultimately, hitting the big time at the World Championships.
As with most films of the nature, the beats are all pretty predictable. There will be obstacles to be overcome, neither character will be able to properly communicate their feelings, hoping the other will pick up on the emotions bubbling underneath and be the one to break rank, but the setting (the 50s) and the working relationship (boss and secretary) make this more understandable than similar (non-)developments in films set now.
But, anyway, a film doesn’t need to be extraordinary to be good fun, and that’s exactly what Populaire is. The tone is light and frothy through-out, the jokes spring from character and situation, not a need to gross-out or push things further, and it is a genuine delight to watch.
At 111 minutes it’s a little long, with a false ending bringing the film to a bit of a premature halt before cranking things back up again, but that’s not a reason not to see the film. Great fun.
1hr 51mins – feels like 1hr 55mins
*It’s not that graphic, it’s just that it is out of place in the film, providing a level of titillation that jars with the film around it