to see Catherine Deneuve, one of the most beautiful actresses of her
generation. What I got was a terrific road movie out of a story that one
might think prospectively is going to be a chick flick designed to drive
men away. But it’s far from that.
(Deneuve) is an aging beauty queen who lives with her mother and owns a
restaurant that is in financial trouble. In the first ten minutes she
gets unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend and, despondent,
impulsively hops in her car for a drive which changes her life.
Writer/director Emmanuelle Bercot combined two desires in one film. The
first was to make a movie with Deneuve, who she says is “part of my
growing up.” The second was to make a road movie.
this is not your normal road movie because, due to a limited budget and
shot on location in Brittany, Bercot shows very little scenery and
hardly ever shows Billie behind the wheel. Even so, the character of the
countryside shines through. “Le Ranch,” the seedy nightclub where Billie
stops for a while, is the real thing. “You can’t invent places like
this,” says Bercot.
she does show is a woman achieving her freedom as she encounters
experiences she’d never meet had she stayed in her restaurant and with
her mother as one day after another morphed into the next decade of
film also deals with mother-daughter relationships, not only with Billie
and her mother, but with Billie and her estranged daughter, Muriel
(played by French singer Camille). Billie has allowed herself to become
confined in a stifling life. By taking to the road she is unknowingly
declaring her independence late in life.
French films are set in Paris or the Riviera. In this one Bercot wanted
to tell the story of rural France, and that’s what Billie drives
through. The people she meets are the people of rural France.
the “actors” are just real people that Bercot and the crew met as they
were filming. Even Marco (Paul Hamy), who picks Billie up in Le Ranch,
never acted before, but you certainly can’t tell that from his
also true of Nemo Schiffman, who plays Bettie’s grandson. Schiffman is
Bercot’s son (with cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman), who came to the
set just to meet Deneuve. Bercot decided to put him in the film in one
short scene where he would hug her, but that grew into one of the most
important parts in the movie.
with non-actors one might think that there would be a lot of
improvisation, but that was not the case. The cast stuck pretty much
with the script except for two scenes, one of Billie with an old man who
rolls a cigarette for her, and another with a farmer Billie asks for
directions. The one with the old man goes on for what I thought was too
long until I discovered that Deneuve was asking him non-scripted
questions and he was really answering about his real life. Knowing this,
the scene is fascinating.
her son’s grandfather (Gérard Garouste) is acting for the first time. A
friend of Deneuve’s, she asked him if he wanted to play the role. Giving
a fine performance, Deneuve says he found it “amusing.”
Deneuve fans may find what look like little homages to Deneuve’s work
for other revered French directors like François Dupeyron, François
Truffaut, and André Téchiné. While Bercot acknowledges that they are
there, she says that it wasn’t really intentional.
gives a wonderful performance, appearing in just about every scene. But
there’s much more to this film than merely seeing a ‘60s-era beauty as a
still beautiful older woman.