Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ***
The unusual tale that François Ozon -- working once again in "slight" mode but with weighty themes -- has chosen to tell in his latest work Hideaway (Le refuge) could easily lead to the kind of scenario found in numerous other films about parenting in modern times. But as this is an Ozon movie, we get something that defies cliche. His film tells of a wealthy and dissolute young man (played by Ozon irregular Melvil Poupaud), his drug-addicted paramour, and his frigid family -- the exception being one sweet and caring brother. The big event happens early on, and the remainder of the movie is taken up with the adjustment to said event by the remaining characters.
Ozon, a popular-on-the-festival-circuit and sometimes very fine director (the recent Ricky, Time to Leave, 8 Women among other films) here glides along the surface of things, showing us character traits and small situations and events that are sometimes fun and occasionally meaningful, all leading to a surprising but believable conclusion -- and yet the film does not carry the weight necessary to make the denoument as meaningful or moving as it ought to be. We buy it, but are left wanting more.
Fortunately the writer/director has assembled a fine cast led by Isabelle Carré (Les Sentiments, Private Fears in Public Places), whose career is on the rise, and here plays a drug-addicted good-time girl named Mousse who suddenly confronts a life-changing situation. The well-off family she has fucked herself into includes a cold mother, distant dad and kind brother (Louis-Ronan Choisy) and then, via one of those too-good-to-be-true situations, she ends up in in a fabulous house by the beach (the seashore is clearly the director's favorite location - see See the Sea, 5x2, etc).
It's all lovely to watch and relax into, with an attractive and on-the-mark cast, while that finale provides ample food for thought. And Mme. Carré's rich performance -- alternately angry, warm, distant, mercurial and intelligent -- helps ground the movie, which would be almost unthinkable without her presence. (The actress was pregnant at the time of the filming.)
Given all that's going on here, the result seems somehow slight. But beautiful, and Ozon fans especially won't want to miss it.
The one extra I found on the Strand Releasing DVD is an original music video with Choisy, who's also known as a singer in his native France.
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