French Film Festival Preview: Joseph and the Girl

While it echoes classic films, this thriller playing at the festival fails to deliver the goods.

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Echoes of My Fair Lady are present in Xavier de Choudens\'s extremely unimpressive thriller Joseph and the Girl, which re-contextualises the Victorian concept of the male mentor/female protégé for a modern heist drama. 

Released from prison, Joseph (the inexpressive and disengaged Jacques Dutronc) looks to finalise a heist that he helped to plan in prison. After meeting with his deceased friend\'s daughter Julie (Hafsia Herzi) in the most unconvincing of circumstances, he recruits her for a final job, robbing a nearby casino. 

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be much detail or emotional texture to the storytelling, which seems seriously underdeveloped on a screenplay level (the film was scripted by its director). Certain elements of the plot are suddenly announced, but unexplained, which leads to a frustrating level of vagueness to the characters\' motivations which seems less ambiguous than lazy and formless. At one point, Joseph suggests that the two characters only have a week to prepare before the big heist, providing an undefined \'ticking time bomb\' element to the film\'s story that the screenplay has done nothing to earn.

Perhaps these deficiencies in the storytelling would be negligible if the characters themselves had been written or played with a degree of sophistication or grace, but these two characters are totally unconvincing. The two actors give risible performances, but - to be fair - there are few performers in the world that could give conviction to characters whose behaviour is so ill defined that they discuss the casino heist within the casino itself.

With an understated design that verges on the banal, director de Choudens and his camera crew use the handheld technique quite poorly, with sequences meandering with little intensity. There seems to be no specificity to the visual approach, and the filmmakers often stumble in visually communicating some of the story\'s more dramatic beats. 

With a number of top thrillers in the Festival (including Carlos), it is difficult to see the appeal of this leaden and hackneyed genre-piece.

Joseph and the Girl will be showing at the Alliance Française French Film Festival. The festival is set to play in Sydney (March 8-27), Melbourne (March 9-27), Brisbane (March 16-April 3), Canberra (March 16-April 3), Perth (March 23-April 10), and Adelaide (March 23-April 10).

For information on specific screenings, you can check on the Festival\'s official website.

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