Willful ignorance as a character trait typically evokes annoyance in those who witness it -- at least in real life. In many French films, however, a character who's willfully ignorant is portrayed in the twee manner, encouraging us to believe it is their blissful view of the world we should accept, not the real one. In the beloved Amélie, Audrey Tautou's title character romps through the world with rose-colored glasses, but imagine for a moment that every step of the way, Amélie's friends are quietly looming with bad news: that all of her fantasies are bullshit. This is Marguerite.
Catherine Frot, who may not be recognizable to American audiences but who has an illustrious career in France, plays Marguerite, a middle-aged, lovelorn baroness who possesses all the faculties for enjoying music and none of the talent to sing, despite her many efforts. At the heart of the story is a lie that becomes a bigger lie, as everyone who surrounds Marguerite is complicit in feeding her delusions of vocal grandeur. But it is Frot's performance -- full of warmth, humor and hope -- that carries the story and even leads to some laugh-out-loud moments.
The film around her mimics the composition of an oil painting. Crushed blacks abound, with accents of Prussian blue and a muted red creating a textured look, where the edges seem to dissolve into a black velvet curtain, all of it framing Marguerite and the motley crew of characters who come to love and support her. Their dialogue is filled with deliberate, telling lines, and director Xavier Giannoli allows these characters to develop in small but surprising ways.