The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun (2015) / Mystery-Thriller
aka La dame dans l'auto avec des lunettes et un fusil
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would be R for nudity, sexual content, violence and language
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Freye Mavor, Benjamin Biolay, Elio Germano, Stacy Martin
Director: Joann Sfar
Screenplay: Patrick Godeau, Gilles Marchand (based on the novel by Sebastien Japrisot)
Review published December 29, 2015
Dany Doremus (Mavor, "Skins") is a mousy secretary who dreams of the exciting and passionate life that has eluded her thus far. Some of those exciting dreams include an affair with her boss (Biolay, Bachelor Days Are Over), so when he asks her to continue her important side work at his home while he goes off on a trip with his wife (Martin, Nymphomaniac) and child, she willingly accepts. Part of their requirements is that Dany drive them to the airport in their 1964 Thunderbird and bring it back home safe and sound. However, once she has the has the car all to herself, she decides to take it out for a joyride, hoping to see things she hasn't seen before, including the sea she has never been to before. Along the way, she encounters a few people who tell her that she has been there the day before. With recurring nightmares of an assault, a murder, and ignited passions, Dany is mystified on whether someone's playing a cruel trick on her, or if it's all in her mind.
Sebastien Japrisot's 1966 novel of the same name has been made a few times before, most notably in the somewhat obscure 1970 version that the author adapted into a screenplay. Set around the same era, this French/Belgian 2015 update intrigues in its set-up but fumbles the execution, such that it is a bit of a disappointment that such a clever little mystery would end up feeling so farfetched and artificial once all the pieces fall into place.
Comic book artist Joann Sfar (Gainsbourg, The Rabbi's Cat) directs with a good eye for interesting retro cinematics, including catchy soundtrack (though many songs not of the period), De Palma-esque split-screen action, hallucinatory flash-forwards, and nice action on the road, with most streets seemingly empty (probably to avoid having to secure a bunch of vintage cars). It's a superficial film with characters that don't have much of a palpable history, but could still merit a nifty thriller if the suspense could be ratcheted up. Unfortunately, the lackadaisical movie meanders much of the way, with Sfar more enamored with shooting his beautiful Scottish lead actress, Freye Mavor, trying on lots of short skirts and high heels. If you ever to see a director wanted to make love to his leading actress using a camera, look no further than this one -- it might even make Michael Bay blush.
The film does manage to answer the main question as to what's going on in the plot that would lead Dany to seemingly revisit the same people and places twice without remembering the first visit, but, once answered, a host of other questions eventually pop up, most of which don't have ready answers available. It's a truly dissatisfying conclusion. The best thing about The Lady in the Car with the Glasses and a Gun is the retro-cool stylistic vibe that Sfar explores with relish. Unfortunately, that cast is all dressed up in the sexiest attire, with nowhere to go except to be 'lost at sea'. Like its titular heroine, it's pretty to look at, but doesn't seem to have much sense going on under the hood
©2015 Vince Leo