Thursday, March 09, 2017

Rendez-Vous ’17: Right Here Right Now

It is never just business at AB Finance. Sure, the partners want to make pots of money, but it is also always personal for them (and often rather petty). It is an intimidating office culture, but Nora Sator’s elbows might be sharp enough for her to survive in Pascal Bonitzer’s Right Here Right Now (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York.

Sator has no problem with cutthroat business practices, per se. It is the revelation AB’s partners once knew her failed academic father that disturbs her. Neither the slimy Arnaud Barsac or the eccentrically muddled Prévot-Parédès (PP) want to elaborate, but it is clear their dubious friendship with Serge Sator ended in a manner that caused her father great embarrassment. Barsac’s boozy wife Solveig understands what happened better than anyone, much to her bitter regret.

The notion she might have been hired out of guilt concerns Sator, but it will not stop her from making an ambitious power play, straight out of the gate. She will try to broker a blockbuster merger for a skeptical new “show me” client, with the reluctant help of Xavier, the colleague she just leap-frogged. Of course, an attraction will grow between him and Sator during those long nights pouring over financials, making him regret passive-aggressively putting the moves on her hipster sister, Maya.

As critiques of capitalism go, RHRN is about as effective as the old Dynasty TV show. Bonitzer probably couldn’t explain what a P/E ratio measures, but he gives us plenty of scenes featuring well-manicured characters verbally sawing each other off at the knees, while swilling top-shelf liquor. In other words, it is a lot of fun.

Nobody imbibes more than Solveig Barsac, but the great Isabelle Huppert makes her the most complex, multi-dimensional figure in the entire film. She is a hot mess with killer attitude and an acute conscience. Whenever she is on-screen, she kicks the film up a notch or two, as you wouls probably expect.

Lambert Wilson is no slouch either as the unrepentant Barsac, while Pascal Greggory brings a completely unpredictable element of WTF-ness as PP (he’s obsessed with Banyan trees, just so you know). Julia Faure helps humanize the ruthless melodrama as Maya, the artistic sister, whereas Agathe Bonitzer’s analytical sister is an ice queen with intelligent presence (adding a meta element in this pseudo-Freudian tale, helmed by her father). On the downside, Vincent Lacoste’s Xavier, the caddish co-worker is so shallow and boring, it is impossible to see how either sister could be attracted to him (and his working-class insecurity is the sort of cliché you would find in a 1970s Harold Robbins novel).

So, both Robbins and Dynasty get name-checked in a review of a French Rendez-Vous selection—then you know it must be good. Bonitzer’s dialogue is razor sharp and his ensemble clearly savors every cutting word. Recommended for those who enjoy scandal and naked ambition, Right Here Right Now screens this Friday (3/10) and Sunday (3/12) at the Walter Reade, as part of the 2017 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.