The storyline of Anne Fontaine's French comedy is mainstream: a yuppie art dealer, Agathe (Isabelle Huppert), finds her condescending values challenged and her sexuality opened up by a crude but "natural" laborer (Benoît Poelvoorde). This is the type of tale which plays to complacent Parisian audiences — a "boulevard comedy." And yet — vive le différence! — the terrific leads dig into their clichéd roles and come up with characters to savor, and a relationship to root for.
Credit Isabelle Huppert for a career of shrewd choices. She's often played women who are admirable because of their transgressiveness. They are not warm-hearted or humanist, nor wish to be. Here she's frosty once more, but since this is a comedy, her chilly bitch has to chill out. But before she does, what fun to watch her, dashing about in Parisian fashions, making her Type-A mark on the art scene, shouting at underlings because the wall is painted incorrectly behind a Mapplethorpe masterwork.
Through more than three decades of film, it's been Huppert alone, sans a proper love match. Who could imagine that this queenly Hepburn would find her Tracy in the ungainly Poelvoorde? For those with a cinema memory, he was the serial killer in the 1992 Belgian nihilist classic, Man Bites Dog.
MY WORST NIGHTMARE :: Directed by Anne Fontaine :: Written by Anne Fontaine and Nicolas Mercier :: With Isabelle Huppert and Benoît Poelvoorde :: French :: Strand Releasing :: 103 minutes :: Brattle