I was dying to see this film when I first saw it advertised, as it had all the makings of favourite film material; it was French, it was set in the late 50s and the star of the film looked like a blonde Audrey Hepburn. In fact, what drew me in about the film's poster was it's likeness to the film Funny Face, starring Miss Hepburn, which was made around the same time that Populaire is set, and also set in France. So when I finally got round to watching it at the cinema, I guess I had quite high expectations.
Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) is an ambitious young secretary, who is hopelessly clumsy, but discovers she has a hidden talent for type writing. She works her way up from the bottom to the top in the world of speed typing competitions, with the help of her handsome, but emotionally unavailable employer, and type writing trainer, Louis Échard (Roman Duris). Love soon blossoms between Rose and Louis, but of course, French pride gets in the way! Story-wise, this film wasn't brilliant, and French charm definitely helped it along. I mean the speed typing concept was sweet and fun, and made for good entertainment, but there was something lacking in the love story, and some of the emotional complexities of the characters seemed two dimensional, and the resolve felt very rushed. Populaire was advertised as Mad Men meets The Artist, which is a totally wrong analogy! It is nowhere near as dark as Mad Men and as for The Artist, the only comparison is it also features Bérénice Bejo.
Fortunately, what Populaire lacked in believable characters and sincerity, it made up for in abundance visually. Nearly every shot could be a photograph, and whatever filters they used completely transported the film back into the 50s. I love aesthetically pleasing films, with extra lashings of whimsical, which may go to explain why Amélie and every single Wes Anderson film are my absolute favourites, and Populaire certainly delivered on this front. Not only did every shot look good, but everyone in them too. I absolutely loved the look of all the costumes, make-up and hair, it certainly captured the look of the period, and the effortlessly chic style of the French. Rose Pamphyle was of course my favourite with her gorgeous 50s outfits, endearing clumsiness and sassy pony tail with a cute little fringe à la Hepburn, which has left me with a terrible case of hair envy.
Populaire is a good watch if you like the 50s, charming French films, pretty costumes and visuals. As long as you don't mind something a bit kitsch lacking real emotional depth.