Kristin Scott Thomas opens Love Crime with a bellowing laugh. It is a loud awakening, casting instant awareness and intrigue. This immediate entrance awakens the audience and prepares them for a film that is rarely still, and never sleeps.
Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier) works for Christine (Kristin Scott Thomas) at Barney Thompson, a multinational corporation in Paris. There is an uneasy closeness straight from the beginning of the film. Christine clearly asserts her authority, but also displays an attraction. Hints of something much more sinister lurking underneath are evident, but Christine is mainly declaring her dominance and alpha dog status. Regardless, it is effective in unsettling Isabelle. Christine encourages her talents, but at the last minute uses Isabelle’s idea in further her own career. Feeling betrayed, Isabelle takes Christine’s advice in being ruthless and sets off a chain of events that create tension, humiliation, an affair and violence.
Elements of Love Crime place it in the midday movie category; films where Meredith Baxter Birney pursues revenge after witnessing her child being abducted on the playground. Perhaps this is too harsh and a nice Saturday primetime-murder-mystery slot on the ABC would suit. Personally, these attributes do not detract any merit or value from a film. Love Crime is utterly engaging, completely engrossing and does keep you guessing like any good game of Cluedo does.
With the release of Horrible Bosses just behind us, Love Crime reminded me of several “horrible boss” films. The Devil Wears Prada and Working Girl were the two related contenders. All three films have double female leads. The underdog is the protagonist and the horrible boss plays the antagonist. Catherine (Sigourney Weaver) in Working Girl is quite similar to Christine. Their approach to a partnership with the protagonist is initially egalitarian, but quickly turns underhanded. The Devil Wears Prada’s similarities lie in the alpha dog boss. Clawing their way to the top, their personal lives are at a shambles. The ingénue becomes a threat by challenging their power and then all hell breaks loose.
Sagnier and Scott Thomas both play their roles with equal proficiency and ease. Sagnier’s Isabelle is smart, impressionable and quick learning. She becomes a victim to Christine’s attacks and we want to see vengeance. Scott Thomas is completely menacing, pure evil and a cinematic gem. Her power is manipulative and self obsessed. Both women – who look beautiful on screen – share a chemistry that is dangerous and palpable.
Co-writer and director Alain Corneau died before the film was released across the world. His work alongside co-writer Nathalie Carter and cinematographer Yves Angelo provide for an entertaining look at power, corruption and influence in the business world.
Written by James Madden.
Love Crime featured in the 2011 Alliance Française French Film Festival and is currently in limited release.