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‘Mrs. Hyde’ (review)

Produced by David Thion, Jean-Yves Roubin,
Cassandre Warnauts, Olivier Père

Written and Directed by Serge Bozon
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Romain Duris,
Patricia Barzyk, José Garcia, Adda Senani

 

Isabelle Huppert stars as the titular character and her very timid alter-ego, a put-upon school teacher named Marie Gequil. She has been teaching for thirty years, yet not only has zero command in the classroom, she’s openly derided and disrespected by her students, if they’re acknowledging her at all.

The school’s principal is an odd duck who looks at her as a mildly embarrassing failure, and her loving-but-clueless stay-at-home husband offers her only well-meaning but ultimately worthless advice.

She’s desperate to get through to her students, especially handicapped Malik, who shows potential but little genuine interest in school.

One night while working on an experiment, Marie is struck by lightning.

Soon, she is summoning heretofore untapped confidence, whipping her students into shape, earning their attention and respect and even forcing them to think for themselves.

Oh, she also starts receiving creepy messages from “Mrs. Hyde” and eventually starts referring to herself as such and starts sleepwalking after her entire body glows like a light stick. Oh, and she can set things on fire by touching them.

Man this movie is weird. I just wish its levels of quality and coherence matched its level of oddness.

First off, the majority of the film is a fairly straightforward drama about a veteran teacher’s late life crisis in realizing she’s not reaching her students. That’s all well and good, but if you’re calling your movie Mrs. Hyde, it would be great if the movie explored the two sides of this woman with even a little bit of depth or insight.

Also, the scenes that focus on Glowbaby Hyde don’t illuminate (sorry) the themes much. In fact, other than a critique of the French educational system, I’m not at all sure what themes the film is attempting to get across.
And the film’s editing honestly appears like the filmmakers played a scene out in post-production, then arbitrarily would freeze an image and decide to cut away at that spot. Many – if not most – scenes in the film just end, or wither away, making absolutely no impact.

Furthermore, this movie is sloooooow. It’s never outright dull, but it comes rather close. There’s really one element that keeps this film from turning into snoozeville, and that leads us to the positive.

I consider the film actually worth seeing if only for Huppert’s performance. It’s hardly her best but it feels wholly uncharacteristic for her and she still nails it. While the script is so muddled that it never really convinces us of Marie’s – or her students’ – personality changes, Huppert almost does.

Another thing I liked is that the film does take its time to allow Marie to teach certain tenets and specific brain-teaser problems in real time, allowing the audience to learn along with the students.

Still, this one’s a tough sell. It’s not an interesting variation on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, though the film is officially based on the book. It’s not an especially insightful character study.

What it apparently is – to many critics who have praised the film – is an often hilarious satire about modern French society. I’m frankly not at all well-versed in things modern France, so I imagine a lot of those references and observations went over my head.

Even so, I’m shocked this is considered a comedy, let alone a hilarious one. I chuckled a few times at what I thought was very sporadic comic relief, but this never had the feel of a comedy of any stripe to me, even a failed one.

Still, feel free to judge for yourselves, then you can clue me in to what I missed.

 

Mrs. Hyde arrives On Demand on June 19th and
is available now for pre-order via iTunes

 

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