Thursday, November 20, 2014

European Union Film Festival Review - The Gilded Cage

The film opens with a long take of Maria (Rita Blanco) walking along an avenue in a wealthy Paris district greeting or being greeted by everyone she meets along the way. She arrives at the multi level lodge where she is concierge in time to obtain the mail and promise the owner Madame Reichert (Nicole Croislle) that she will help prepare her prize winning flowers. Maria makes sure the twins in the upper level flat are set for school while her husband Jose (Joaquim de Almeida) helps with Monsieur Zu's (Yann Roussel) bonsai tree for free.

The Riberio's are indispensable to their community. Jose is a foreman for Caillaux construction company, his project leadership specifically requested by potential customers. When he is at home at the Lodge he acts as a handyman for all of the residence not just Mr. Zu. Rosa's sister Lourdes (Jacqueline Corado) has the dream of opening a Portuguese eatery in Paris featuring Rosa's cooking called The Two Cods. Their two children are truly French son Pedro (Alex Alves Pereira) in high school and daughter  Paula (Barbara Cabrita) out in the working world. So when Jose gets an official  package delivered to him at work declaring him the sole heir to the family vineyard back home in Portugal the couple is conflicted on what to do next.

Writer Director Ruben Alves first feature is full of smiles and laughs stemming from the sudden change of the Riberio's fortunes. The news of their windfall gets out to the community leading each of their business and family contacts to scheme to keep the couple in Paris. Jose's employer Francis Caillaux (Roland Giraud) offers a raise and an invitation to a posh dinner meeting to discuss a new shopping mall project of a perspective new client. The fact that his son Charles (Lannick Gauttry) is now dating Paula can only help to bind Jose to him. Madame Reichert finally approves the extension to the Ribeiro's tiny apartment and hires more help to reduce Maria's shores. Sister Lourdes dreams up an illness for her husband to keep her Two Cods dream alive. When the Riberio's find out whats going on they vow to turn the tables but their hearts are not in to being mean to their longtime friends.

The Ribero's are not into posh living first demonstrated when they spend a night at an upscale castle hotel a gift from their daughter Paula.  The fancy plated small portioned room service dinner with the obligatory over attentive waiter is replaced by a hearty home cooked hearty meal scooped out of a Tupperware container. The other being a dinner they host for Paula and Charles. They get far too over dressed serve a dinner similar to the one from the hotel where all the Caillaux were looking for was Portuguese cod as pointed out by Charles mother Solange (Chantal Lauby).

Rita Blanco's Maria is the central performance in the film. She is selfless knows everyone's schedule, likes and needs and is happy to put hers desires last.  Joaquim de Almeida turns in another strong performance as Jose. He left Portugal over thirty years ago after a dispute with his brother, has a picture of the family vineyard he looks at in his locker every day now he has the chance to go back he is wavering due to his loyalty to people in is adopted land.  The film has several strong supporting roles but two rank above the others.  Maria Vieira comedic turn as Rosa is the source of many a laugh in the film. She is the Caillaux housekeeper and they are all afraid of her. She is a close confidant of Maria and Lourdes and the source of the widespread leak of the Riberio's windfall. She also helps Solange Caillaux with some Portuguese phrases ahead of the dinner at the Riberio's which Solange augments with semi facts from Wikepedia. Chantal Lauby as Solange is the other supporting comedic performance in that need of mentioning. Her half true lines at the dinner party are perfectly timed. They are only surpassed with her dressing down of Ms. Reichert when she comes looking for Jose to fix a leaky toilet during the dinner.

The Gilded Cage presents a subject relatively overlooked in cinema before.  The plight of Portuguese immigrants that moved to France during the dictatorship years to start families. Their children are French with little to no Portuguese is  spoken in the household. The parents toil in manual labour jobs without much status. Director Alves does a superior job of presenting the material for a film that is as advertised a light comedic romp.

*** out of 4.

The Gilded Cage | Ruben Alves | France | 2013 | 90 Minutes.

Tags; Immigrants, inheritance, Winery, Concierge, Foreman, Dinner Party, Portugal.

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