Paulette is old, and she’s also mean and deeply racist, and, as played by the legendary French actress Bernadette Lafont, the title character in this formulaic comedy is unapologetic about her brittle edges.
Alas, writer-director Jérôme Enrico lacks Lafont’s steely resolve, and it doesn’t take him long to turn Paulette into a pastry-baking softie. She’s an impoverished widow, about to lose her apartment in a run-down Parisian neighborhood. When she sees how much money the local dealers are making, Paulette offers her services to their boss (Paco Boublard), and is soon raking in the cash with hashish-laced “Space Cakes.”
Except for one odd scene where her young drug rivals knock Paulette down and kick her, Enrico avoids all hints of realism, with Paulette bringing her elderly friends into her mini-empire and along the way finally learning to love her black grandson (Ismaël Dramé). It’s all pure hokum, perfect for a Shirley MacLaine remake, but it’s lovely to see Lafont carrying a film so effortlessly.
She died in 2013, at age 74, one year after Paulette became a hit in France. A working actress since she was 19, Lafont was at the forefront of the French New Wave, with François Truffaut, who discovered her, once calling her, lovingly, “a wild child.” It would appear that she remained so all her working life.
Directed by Jérôme Enrico
Cohen Media Group
Opens August 14, Paris Theatre