The Bridesmaid

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Philippe (Benoit Magimel) is an overprotected Momma’s Boy with Oedipal issues who still lives at home, even though he has a flourishing career as a contractor. The eligible young bachelor is so devoted to caring for his dysfunctional family that he hasn’t had any time to think about a social life. His mother (Aurore Clement) is a divorcee who’s very dependent on her son for emotional support, despite the fact that she’s being courted by a well-to-do country gentleman (Bernard Le Coq) with a Jaguar and a sprawling estate.

His younger sister, Patricia (Anna Mihalcea), is a self-destructive misanthrope with a nose ring and a penchant for shoplifting. She also keeps late hours and pesters others to lend her money, which might be an indication of a drug habit. And Philippe’s other sibling, Sophie (Solene Bouton), is about to marry an odd-looking geek (Eric Seigne) seemingly less out of love than as a means of escaping an emotionally-unhealthy household.

The wedding turns out to be just as transformational for Philippe, too, after he falls head-over-heels for a flirtatious bridesmaid named Senta (Laura Smet). The inexperienced lad doesn’t stand a chance against this shameless temptress who starts seducing him right after the ceremony.

But once she reels him in, a devious side soon emerges as she attempts to exact four promises out of her new beau. As proof of his love, Senta asks Philippe to write a poem, to plant a tree, to sleep with a man and to murder someone. Senta’s shocked suitor has some serious reservations about the last two requests, but her manipulative persistence actually has him considering compromising his values to save the relationship.

This intriguing development reveals the compelling central theme of The Bridesmaid, the latest flick from France’s Claude Chabrol (The Swindle). Here, the legendary director, long known for fashioning fascinating psychological thrillers with ordinary everymen somehow swept up into unusual, compromising predicaments, has created another such intriguing examination of human psychology.

Adapted from a novel of the same name by Brit mystery novel writer, Ruth Rendell, this neo-noir masterpiece is an understated exercise in edge and intensity worthy of favorable comparison to Alfred Hitchcock.

Excellent (4 stars). Unrated. In French with subtitles. Running time: 110 minutes
Studio: First Run Features.

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