Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Aure Atika and Lolita Chammah
Runtime: 101 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
Year after year after year, since at least 1977, Isabelle Huppert has been making films in which she stars. She is one of cinema’s greatest actresses. Her films are worth seeing for her performances alone.While she is always recognisably her same self, Isabelle Huppert is able to interiorise her characters so intently (though seemingly effortlessly) that they can seem vastly different one from the other. Most of her characters are quite serious. Copacabana provides an opportunity for her to bring a lighter, carefree, even irresponsible, woman to life.
She plays Boubou, an unconventional woman, often oblivious of others and of the effect she has on others. She can be really irritating. As the film opens, she is wandering the streets and the shops, trying on make-up which gives her a trollopy look, and then embarrassing her daughter, Esmeralda, at the restaurant where Esmeralda works. It might occur to you, as you look at the close-ups of Esmeralda’s face, that the casting director has been adept at finding an actress who more than resembles Isabelle Huppert. But, in fact, it is Isabelle Huppert’s actual daughter, Lolita Chammah.
In many ways, the plot is a take-it-or-leave-it one. But, as we see more of Boubou, her inability to hold down a job, her flirtatious ways, her attempts at a looking-younger-than-she-is wardrobe, her upset when her daughter forbids her to come to her wedding, we see that Boubou is a woman of more potential than she gives herself credit for – or that anyone has given her credit for. Stung by her daughter’s reaction, she goes off to Ostend to apply for a job interesting tourists in time-share apartments. We think she will fail – au contraire. She does well at her job, proving herself a natural at meeting and communicating with people in the apartments. In the meantime, she clashes with her older and snobbish room-mate at work (but who wouldn’t!), meets up with a charming Flemish cargo worker, is kind to a pair of vagrants, becomes friendly with her rather superior boss.
But, all the time, she would love to go to Brazil. Copacabana is a dream.
Actually, the more we see of Boubou – and this is the skill of Isabelle Huppert in creating a believable three dimensional character out of someone who seems in real life to be rather two dimensional – the more we appreciate her. She still does selfish things (ask the poor Flemish worker) but she does some really good things for Esmeralda and her fiancé. And, if she can’t go to Brazil, then, as you will be pleased to see, Brazil comes to her.
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