The annual ‘Rendezvous with French Cinema‘ series is underway at the Film at Lincoln Center in New York, screening over 20 films through March 15th. Last week I reviewed Eva Green in Proxima. Today is Lucie Borleteau’s new French thriller Perfect Nanny starring Karin Viard.
Some things hit too close to home. The monstrous metaphors of horror movies have taken all sorts of shapes to suit their specific times and places — from the somnambulist black-and-white goblins of Weimar Germany to the Buick-sized Ants of the American Atomic Age, we channel our anxieties into all sorts of forms, from the otherworldly and impossible on down to the girl next door. The closer things get to real, though, the more queries of morality seem to come into play — it’s the difference between a Friday the 13th movie and Zac Efron playing a hyper-sexualized Ted Bundy. One helps us escape, while the other seems to confront us in ways we’re not expecting, and not at all comfortable with.
That’s not to say the latter works better — I’d rather watch Jason Voorhees slaughter nameless camp counselors all in the name of teenage lust any day than sit through Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile again, that’s for sure. But the moral quandary presented by the latter remains richer to me — by what it asks, demands, of the audience. Sometimes that bet works, and sometimes (like with Efron) it’s a wash — I’d argue that Lucie Borleteau’s new French thriller Perfect Nanny, which is about exactly what you think it is given that title, falls closer to the former. It shook.
Myriam (Leïla Bekhti) and Paul (Antoine Reinartz) are the frazzled parents of two small children, a newborn baby son and a slightly older daughter. On the verge of losing it, Myriam suggests they hire a nanny so she can get back to work — cue one of those goofy “meet cute” interview montages where several bad candidates wear them down until the heavens part and their ideal candidate shows up at the last minute. Her name is Louise and she’s play by French stalwart Karin Viard — blonde and just matronly frump enough to not be a sexual threat, she fits right in so right it’s as if she was always there.