Opening 11 Aug 2016
Jacqueline (Josiane Balasko) is a happily widowed mother of three adult children, living her life in a meticulously controlled apartment in a charming little town in Provence. (Is there any other kind of town in Provence?) She’s carrying on an affair with her upstairs neighbor, Jean (Didier Flamand), unbeknownst to her children. That is until her daughter Stéphanie (Alexandra Lamy) returns home to ‘Hotel Mama’ after losing her architecture practice and her apartment. At 40, Stéphanie is divorced with a young son whom she doesn’t see as often as she would like. She’s broke, confused, frustrated, and now back living with her larger-than-life mother until she can get back on her feet.
The relationship between Jacqueline and Stéphanie forms the core of the film, as they come to terms with living together. The two women talk and eat and argue a bit, while Jacqueline tries, with increasing slapstick measures, to hide her romance from her daughter. It’s fun to watch Balasko monkeying around, and she serves up a lovely serving of Frenchness, for lack of a better word.
The film shines when it focuses on the family dynamics, especially those between Stéphanie and her siblings, as it shows how, no matter how old you get, you’re never too old to (mis)behave like a child, revisiting old quarrels and childhood injustices. And the comedic tone of the movie makes light of the situation Stéphanie finds herself in. From an awkward dinner ‘networking’ to increasingly nasty exchanges with her siblings, Stéphanie comes across as either selfish or clueless, so it’s disappointing when her problems are easily solved, grace à Maman, with no real effort on Stéphanie’s part. With its breezy take on life, it feels like anything set against the backdrop of a beautiful town in Provence can’t help but turn out ok, which makes it a nice, light summer escape. (Diana Schnelle)