How to be a Good Wife (La Bonne Epouse)
Directed by Martin Provost
Starring Juliette Binoche, Yolande Moreau, Noémie Lvovsky, François Berléand and Édouard Baer
In French with English subtitles
In cinemas nationally as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival
Nestled in the countryside of the Alsace region of France — essentially Hicksville — sits Van der Beck’s School of Housekeeping and Good Manners, in which teenage women are taught manners and subservience to men.
Run by a small group of conservative eccentrics, for decades it has not updated its thinking of what young women should aspire to in life.
But the times they are a’changing.
It is 1968, the radio brings news of Parisian workers and students battling riot police and revolutionary ideas are stirred among the girls. Throw in a couple of doses of lust and love and there is a recipe for laughter.
Interestingly, the coming-of-age issues among the young women are all represented realistically, whereas the older characters are presented as slightly overdrawn and bizarre. It makes for a very amusing mix.
Noémie Lvovsky as a hard-arsed, cigarette-smoking, gun-toting nun deserves a movie all of her own.
I was expecting a simple narrative of schoolgirls rising up and overthrowing old-fashioned, authoritarian teachers.
Instead we have a charming, quirky celebration of women’s liberation and endorsement of the 1968 spirit.