Potiche is a word for “decorative vase” but also a term for “trophy wife” and Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve) is just that. When her husband is taken hostage by the workers at his umbrella factory she takes over and is given a chance to unlock her potential. The year is 1977 and womankind still has a lot to prove, especially in this provincial French setting. Amidst the rampant sexism she goes from strength to strength in this feelgood French flick. Fabrice Luchini gives good sleaze as her husband and Gerard Depardieu plays the local mayor who has some nice chemistry with Deneuve.
The film’s seventies theme offers a camp charm. It’s not a particularly subtle comedy (it has all the hallmarks of a play and was adapted from one) but the key players do not descend into farcical performances. Deneuve in particular gives a quietly effective performance. While her unfabled beauty may have diminished, her acting has only got better.
Alongside the main equal rights issue, Potiche gives us a look at a politically-divided 1970s
. This aids the film’s jocular nature, supplying us with some fun - let’s face it – stereotypes and director Francois Ozon gets away with it because it’s a period piece. Nothing offensive occurs, mind. It is sweet and un-cynical but at the same time has an important (and still relevant) message. Sometimes it takes a story from more prejudiced times to throw a spotlight onto the same problems occurring today. But first and foremost it’s a real giggle and I’d recommend this to anyone old enough to read the subtitles. France