Mrs. Hyde Review
Mrs. Hyde (2017) Film Review from the 55th Annual New York Film Festival, a movie directed by Serge Bozon, starring Isabelle Huppert, Romain Duris, José Garcia, Adda Senani, Guillaume Verdier, Charlotte Véry, Tristan Pagès and Romain Duris.
Serge Bozon’s Mrs. Hyde is, overall, an unfocused mess of a film. Though it has its charms, from creative and often funny shot direction and scene transition, the situational comedy isn’t enough to overcome the fact that by the last act, you know there was no clear focus regarding a strong overall theme or satisfying character development. Surely, this could be forgiven for simply being an absurdist, quirky take on the realities of being a woman, a teacher, a wife, and so on. But the film has so much potential in its first half, that it’s disappointing to see it shrink down to size by the end.
Isabelle Huppert is always an indelible joy to watch. She’s a consistently engaging presence, and we like her. I’m always rooting for her, which is a big help in Mrs. Hyde, as if this role were given to anyone else, I may have found nobody to hang on to, here. Huppert is genuinely funny in this, playing nervous, awkward, and adamant with entertaining results. Most notably, perhaps, is her co-star, Romain Duris, who plays the principal at the school she teaches physics at. It’s odd, that even with two good characters and a protagonist we care about, then, that this movie never amounts to anything substantial. There’s no single clear, identifiable theme. Not that this is always a requirement for a movie – but a narrative French film about oppression and relationships better have one if I’m meant to walk away with something.
The arcs we get to witness – of Mrs. Géquil (see what they did there?) and Malik, a troubled student of her’s (played by Adda Senani) – are so unevenly and hazily glossed over and unresolved, that none of what we just watched made any sense. What is this movie about? Should I have cared, or was it all a satire I didn’t quite catch?
Early on, you might think Mrs. Hyde is a modern-day adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in which a fragile, female teacher eventually learns to overcome her timidity, and show these rude-ass kids what’s up. This could even be hilarious, or tragic, eventually triumphant – for example. Right there, that’s an arc I’ll go with. I could engage with it, and be satisfied at seeing this standard Hero’s Journey run its course. But no, this possible structure quickly transitions to another. Is this movie about women in society? A seething critique of superhero films (mentioned early on), purposefully leaving clichés and standard tropes out of the picture? Or does this film argue that our new generation is foolish, that it confuses our adult minds to shreds, and leaves us empty?
I suppose it’s ambitious of Bozon to attempt wrangling all of the above – but none of them, frankly, are visceral enough on their own to fully appreciate. The film often feels like something that should be projected on a big white wall at the MOMA, while students shuffle around to find a spot on the floor to sit on as they walk into the room halfway through the film. The first hour really is entertaining, and keeps us afloat through Huppert’s presence, some fun editing and comedic beats, and a vague sense that something will eventually happen. But once that second act is finished, Mrs. Hyde peters out. It drags – and eventually ends in one of the dullest ways imaginable.
If you’re a die-hard Huppert fan, I suppose you’d enjoy at least half of this film. For a general audience, though, this is definitely far from satisfying or cathartic. I’m interested to watch more of Bozon’s work, however, and would always show up for a promising Huppert role. This movie isn’t terrible – it just never really takes you anywhere. Perhaps, this confusing, multi-faceted compilation of potential themes, tones, and arcs is meant to illustrate what a split mind like Dr. Jekyll’s would actually feel like. But that’s probably a stretch.
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