Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On My Way: Catherine Deneuve Takes a Road Trip

A former Miss Brittany, Bettie has always been able to turn men’s heads, but that does not necessarily mean she has an aptitude for business. No seriously, it doesn’t. With her bills and the disappointments of life compounding, she sets out on an impulsive road trip in Emmanuelle Bercot’s On My Way (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

For years Bettie has settled for being the mistress of the man she thinks she loves. However, when he leaves both her and his wife for a much younger woman, Bettie loses her only reason for staying in her ever so provincial town. While serving lunch at her soon to be insolvent restaurant, she suddenly ups and leaves in search of cigarettes. She will range pretty far in search of smokes, but why not?

After a night drinking at a road house and an incredibly awkward tryst, Bettie finally gets a justification for her walkabout. Her estranged, nearly unemployable daughter needs her to drive Charly, the grandson she barely knows, to his paternal grandfather’s house, so she can leave for a dubious job abroad. 

Of course, it will not be a smooth ride, but at least OMW picks up speed as it goes along. As viewers learn Bettie’s backstory, they will become more apt to forgive her dubious decisions, but she remains a hard figure to fully embrace. That makes her psychologically realistic, but also a bit of a pill to spend screen-time with. Likewise, Bercot’s real life son Nemo Schiffman is certainly convincingly churlish as the androgynous Charly. However, in his screen debut, painter Gerard Garouste supplies exactly the sort of worldly gravitas the film needs as Alain, Charly’s curmudgeonly grandpa.

Like a cross-country drive, OMW has its highs and lows.  While Bettie is essentially the sort of sexually confident senior Shirley MacLaine used to specialize in, her chemistry with Garouste, the non-professional thesp, is fresh and appealing. Pleasant enough, but overly susceptible to unnecessary detours, On My Way is mostly recommended for Deneuve’s older Francophile fans when it opens this Friday (3/14) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.