Queen To Play (Joueuse), a French film starring the beautiful Sandrine Bonnaire and Kevin Kline, directed by Caroline Bottaro, is an hour and 40 minutes of good film, good acting, good direction and a unique idea. One is tipped off that the film is out of the ordinary when you realize that the leading male in the piece is Kevin Kline speaking entirely in perfect French! Not dubbed! Like who knew?
Here is the curious story. A couple from the lower classes, in the South of France, have a teenage daughter going through the usual teenage pains. The female lead is a mother and maid, played by wholesome Sandrine Bonnaire (physically beautiful and hugely talented). Her marriage is getting a bit tiresome, but she is a faithful and concerned wife. She gives her husband an electric chess set for his birthday! This is mystifying, in that her husband has never thought about chess his whole life. The idea for the gift came to her in a moment of inspiration, hoping they could learn the game together and spark their marriage, spending evenings with each other. It turns out badly because he doesn’t have the slightest idea about chess and doesn’t care to pursue it. In fact, he feels offended . She throws the chess set in the garbage. But then she has second thoughts and digs it out. She starts to read the rules of chess… and she gets hooked.
Now how is that for a weird theme for a movie! But the oddness soon gives way to interest when she becomes enamored with the game. She then talks an elderly, educated American widower (played brilliantly by Kevin Kline) to teach her chess. He is living in the South of France to recover from his wife’s death. Kline is gruff and unpleasant. She, the maid, cleans his house once a week. He is an astute chess player. Now, you see where this is going. And does it go? It sounds, perhaps, too goofy, but is played with such skill you can’t help to get caught up!
I won’t tell you more because you‘ll have fun being surprised. But don’t get me wrong. This movie is not a knockabout farce. It’s funny but intriguing, interesting to the end. The moral of the story is that genius can overcome all kind of obstacles. You will walk out on a cloud! The story is cuckoo, but good cuckoo. And its just plain wonderful watching talented artists doing their work.
On my infamous sliding whoopee whistle scale, I give this one 3 whistles, playing at our treasured Camelot Theatre.
BobBob, the Movie Maven