This is the third group of older women who viewed and discussed the film apart from the 101 U3A members (see previous post in 2005 and resources for the BFI Guide to Older Women in Film).
I was surprised again that the film group women reacted much more positively to Tatie Danielle than the majority of reviewers. In 2006 110 U3A members watched the film, discussed it and sent their opinions: 81 people enjoyed the film a lot or quite a lot. 29 did not. Their comments were much kinder than the majority of the critics.
Below the gut reactions of the 9 members of the film group who saw the film this month.
- Very enjoyable. I liked the fact that the study of TD was finely nuanced. She presents as a monster, which in many ways she is, but as more is revealed of her grief and loneliness and we see her surrounded by people who have what she does not, and who control what she cannot. We cannot condone, but we can understand. The narrative occasionally jumped so that some developments are unexplained e.g. the flight to Switzerland at the end with Sandrine.
- The character of Danielle is so over the top that the story is unbelievable but nevertheless very amusing and well acted, so the film is entertaining. Lots of telling details.
- Superb acting by TD character – always believable hence other characters came across as very superficial/not credible. This parallels the external (superficiality ) of decor/clothing e.g. dinner party outfit of the wife, clientele of the salon. This focusses all the attention on Danielle’s character in a complex way. What motivates her? Spite/ malice versus loneliness/genuine fears – mental not physical problems as she is robust. Happy end credible.
- Hard to sympathise with the character (Danielle) but need to go deeper than main impression of a manipulating, sad and nasty character who eventually won over the young woman who challenged her.
- Horribly entertaining! But another old lady stereotype – truly a monster. Why are the old ladies never normal people ? I would not want to watch it again. A highly unpleasant control freak who doesn’t deserve the happy ending.
- Film about a lonely, unhappy older woman who is not as dependent as she believes. Is she manipulative because she is lonely or has she always been so? Uses money as power over others but befriends a younger version of herself. I both enjoyed and hated it at times.
- Love Edward!! Too long. Excellent lighting – close-ups on faces, beautiful colours too , pastel pinks and green uniforms. Wicked comedy – grotesque woman made even worse by old age? No. She was just mean-spirited – her warming to Sandrine inexplicable. Didn’t like Sandrine belting the ‘nasty’ out of her – but it was cathartic for the audience. Great actress. Conflicted emotional response. Long and silly ending – repetitive. Powerlessness through age – she uses those very things to pull the strings of her family and achieve personal power. My grandmother would utter the same guilt tripping sentences “I’ll be dead next week’ . Family too good to be true. Old woman as carer showing 2 sides of age.
- Film was a story of old age, black humour, but with undercurrents of horror and despair. TD was a complex character – a very strong woman who had clearly not been able to put her strength and energy to good use. She did terrible things in the film but on the whole we were able to understand why; to see things from her point of view even if we lacked sympathy with her actions. Other characters were less well drawn, bits of stereotypes. I was unable to believe in the nephew, his wife, his kids or the sister . Sandrine more believable. Relationship between the two was the most interesting part of the film.
- Tatie is a manipulative woman who craves attention and is happy to attract negative attention rather than be left to herself. She is full of hate and spite, greed and envy. She meets Sandrine and they come to an adjustment as Sandrine is quite ruthless and they have much in common. These primitive and vicious behaviours are shown in a gracious settings, elegant flowered curtains and wallpapers, antique and modern tasteful furniture. Eventually the awful mess inside Tatie is externalised into the destruction of the kitchen and flat.
It is interesting that in discussing the way TD uses her power to manipulate, her money is mentioned but nobody observes that she uses ageist attitudes and fear of ageing (in others and the audience) to have her way: the many scenes where incontinence provides the site of rebellion for example, the refusal to be treated as the convenient babysitter, being left alone while others are on holiday, being abused by the carer…
The discussion was very animated and the violence of Sandrine’s slap and TD submission made people uncomfortable.