Starring: Romain Duris, Déborah François, Bérénice Bejo
Director: Régis Roinsard
Running Time: 111 mins
Populaire is a French film about a small town young woman who applies to be a secretary at a big insurance firm, and despite the fact that she is a terrible secretary, her gift for speed typing leads her boss to take her in and train her to participate and win the International Speed Typing Championships.
This is a film of two very separate genres. On the one hand, it’s a rom-com, and it’s one that doesn’t work at all, due to poor writing, poor on-screen chemistry and excessive cheesiness throughout. On the other hand, it’s effectively a sports movie, and although it has the typical sports movie storyline, the scenes where we see the typing championships really are exciting.
Let’s start with the main aspect of this film, the romantic comedy. In terms of the comedy, it’s pretty weak, with largely dulled down humour that is neither quirky nor funny enough, something that leaves large periods of the film, particularly the opening act where the lack of character establishment means the comedy is the only thing attracting you, particularly boring to watch.
Meanwhile, the romance here is not at all interesting. The two actors have little on-screen chemistry that makes for a very unconvincing love story, and although they do improve a little in the final act, the fact still remains that you don’t really care about their relationship at all, because this couple just seems so cheesy and stupid.
The male lead is a very generic and pretty one-dimensional character here, going through all of the generic romantic comedy development of ultimately realising that he loves the girl he thought so little of before. However, the female lead is a much more appealing character, both likeable and convincing, which is most important when it comes to supporting her in the championships.
The periods of the film set in the speed typing championships are excellent. You’re not only passionately willing on our heroine to win the competition against all odds, but it’s also a consistently exciting and tense display throughout, thanks to fantastic directing by Régis Roinsard who uses quick cuts in these scenes to make them really invigorating to watch.
Overall, this gets a 6.3, because despite its very poor comedy and romantic story, this film has a likeable main character and is full of thrilling sports sequences that, whilst you know what’s going to happen, will properly entice you.