Movie review: Flirty French ‘Populaire’ seeks the keys to romance

THE SEATTLE TIMESOctober 4, 2013 

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Deborah Francois plays Rose Pamphyle, the speed-of-light typist in the romantic comedy “Populaire.”

  • POPULAIRE

    ••

    Rated: R for a scene of sexuality. Starring: Romain Duris, Feodor Atkine, Deborah Francois. Director: Regis Roinsard; in French with English subtitles Running time: 111 minutes. Theater: Flicks.

A frothy, sherbet-colored comedy that’s never quite as effervescent as it tries to be, “Populaire” tells the story of a young woman who finds love through speed typing.

Rose (Deborah Francois) is a pink-cheeked, small-town type in 1958 France, determined to find glamorous work as a secretary. As it turns out, she’s pretty lousy at the job — except for typing, at which she’s quickly discovered to be a whiz.

Her boss, Louis (Romain Duris), decides she has a special gift and appoints himself her coach, determined to bring her to the French national typing championships and beyond.

And off “Populaire” spins, like cotton candy on a stick, mixing elements of ’50s romantic comedy, “Pygmalion”/“My Fair Lady” (you almost expect a chorus of the French equivalent of “Poor Professor Higgins”) and an odd touch of “Vertigo.”

It feels overlong, and the action isn’t quite as snappy as the soundtrack would indicate.

But “Populaire” is full of small pleasures: the rhythmic rat-a-tat-tat of manual typewriter keys (remember how they’d always jam at the worst possible moment?); the sight of rows and rows of pretty typists waiting for the starting whistle with their hands up and fingers dangling, like puppies waiting for a treat; the way they attack the carriage return as if slapping it back.

As romantic comedy it’s uneven, but as an ode to something long gone, “Populaire” hits the right notes.

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