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This year's Cannes Film Festival opener neither talks the talk nor walks the walk in a period drama so dull and predictable even the splendour of the sets and costumes cannot hold your attention.

With a film starring Johnny Depp in his first big role after the Amber Heard trial Jeanne du Barry was always going to be a conversation starter for the Cannes Film Festival. Such a shame though that talking about the qualities of the film itself will reflect poorly on the festival.

Jeanne du Barry recounts the life of the mistress of Louis XV of France, whose dalliance with and sway over the king irked the royal family immensely and brought the dynasty's reign in disrepute. It's a tale worth telling, but not in the way director and lead actress Maïwenn decides to.

For some reason I cannot fathom she continually refrains from showing the audience the really juicy intrigues, instead focusing on the mundane life at the royal court. The movie thus becomes an awfully dull affair: a costume drama where the costumes far outweigh the drama.

Another major mistake is that Maïwenn casts herself in the titular part. In real life du Barry was 25 years old when she was introduced to the king. Maïwenn is nearly twice that age and thus never sells either the sexual allure nor the cunning social climbing the role requires. Johnny Depp's Louis XV is no less of a miscast: he sleepwalks through the part, seemingly as bored as the audience is.

Cannes 2023 might still produce some cinematic marvels. But it's highly unlikely anyone will remember this opening films once the Palme d'Or is handed out.

release: 2023

director: Maïwenn

starring: Maïwenn, Johnny Depp, Pierre Richard, Benjamin Lavernhe


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