Renée (Jane Birkin) is a professional widow, a shameless gold-digger who goes from marriage to marriage, leaving richer while her various husbands stay behind, deader. As she grieves her latest victim, her macabre routine is disturbed by the resurgence of Laurence (Émilie Dequenne), the granddaughter she’s never known. Now 20, the young woman is the exact opposite of Renée, as desperately romantic as her grandma is gleefully unsentimental. Constantly falling in love and scaring guys away, Laurence always ends up alone and heartbroken. When these two pair up and take on the Côte d’Azur, an unhealthy mentor/protégée relationship begins to the unconscious dismay of dopey rich men everywhere.
Writer-director Catherine Corsini is trying to make a darkly comic amorality tale, but it doesn’t quite pan out. It’s amusing to see Laurence go from awkward young girl to femme fatale, but she never quite gets there. She remains naïve, and she actually influences Renée more than she’s influenced by her. Just as the older woman is sharing her insights on being distant and manipulative with men, she falls in love with a rowdy old man amusingly played by a bearded and pony-tailed Pierre Richard. Isn’t it Alanis?
There are some fun moments in “Mariées mais pas trop”, but the tone is inconsistent, shifting from a mean streak to harmless corniness. The plot is also a stop-and-go affair, with slow stretches giving way to abrupt ellipses, as weddings happen overnight and people fall in and out of love by the time we cut away from a shot to another.
Émilie Dequenne is as adorable as ever, but she’s not given the material to deliver a performance as strong as her work in “Rosetta” or “Oui, mais…”. As for Jane Birkin, she’s still full of charm, maybe too much: we never quite buy her as a cold-hearted vixen. Such is the case with the whole picture – it tries a lot to be cruel and wicked, but ultimately it’s rather conventional.
“In fact, immediately after the consummation of her marriage to the smaller and weaker male of the specie she kills and eats him – *laugh* oh, she is delicious.. and I hope he was! Such power and dignity – unhampered by sentiment. If I may put forward a slice of personal philosophy, I feel that man has ruled this world as a stumbling dimented child-king long enough! And as his empire crumbles, my precious Black Widow shall rise as his most fitting successor!”
( Vincent Price in “Welcome to my Nightmare” )