Marguerite has been a huge hit in its native France, and one can see why: it’s funny and moving, with a rare delicacy that captures the attention.
The title character is a patron of the arts, a wealthy socialite in 1920s Paris. A devoted opera fan, she gives recitals for friends and admirers. The catch? She has an absolutely atrocious singing voice, but no-one will tell her, for fear of being cast out of her exclusive circle.
That’s a premise ripe for broad comedy – and lead actress Catherine Frot does not stint in portraying the sheer awfulness of Marguerite’s singing. Yet she is also a likeable character, and Frot makes us feel real sympathy for this deluded, tone-deaf woman. She is, after all, devoted to music – and touchingly she also craves affection.
There’s a sadness about her life. Her marriage is loveless; her husband Georges (Andre Marcon) is impatient with her awful singing, while her obedient butler (Denis Mpunga) repeatedly photographs her for posterity and arranges hordes of flowers from non-existent ‘admirers’ to be delivered to her after each caterwauling performance.
Yet Marguerite emerges an almost heroic figure – blithely unaware of her vocal shortcomings, but laudably loyal to the ideal of serving her art. This is a lovely, wry comedy – one that can make you laugh, then question your motives for doing so.
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