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When the Job's Away

MOVIE REVIEW
My Piece of the Pie (2011)

Ma-part-du-gâteau-my-piece-of-the-pie-karin-viard-gilles-lellouche
Chantal Thomine-Desmazures/Studiocanal

With “My Piece of the Pie,” Cédric Klapisch seems to want to strike a happy medium between the hyperkinetic, post-E.U. “L’auberge espagnole” and the mature and hence snoozy “Paris.” The result recalls lighter Robert Guédiguian fare (think “Marius and Jeannette”), which entertains without offering anything of substance on its blue-collar protagonist disenfranchised by the global recession.

First things first, Klapisch regular/screen-surrogate/alter-ego Romain Duris is actually not in it. Instead, Karin Viard (most recently seen in François Ozon’s “Potiche”) here plays France, a laid-off single mother of three from the northern port town Dunkirk who moves to Paris to find work as a housemaid. Her new employer Steve (Gilles Lellouche) is the kind of powerbroker who pilots his private jet to take his model date to Venice for a weekend getaway.

The comparisons and contrasts between the two intersecting lives are stark, but unfortunately Mr. Klapisch devotes little time to them. Instead, we’re treated to the more conventional plot of Steve’s three-year-old son Alban (Lunis Sakji) unexpectedly arriving one day and France suddenly having to juggle babysitting along with her regular chores.

During the exciting opening sequence, the film offers glimmers of hope that Mr. Klapisch might have brought his A game this time. He certainly revisits the sort of pan-European vision (perhaps a necessity for most European co-productions, who knows?) that made “L’auberge espagnole” and its sequel “Russian Dolls” so charming. But rather than imagining some sort of utopian world peace, “My Piece of the Pie” is more about the dark side of the European Union.

As “When the Cat’s Away” established, Mr. Klapisch works his magic best when directing nonprofessional actors, and this is no exception. The few random scenes involving neighborhood kids, immigrant workers and laid-off laborers are absolutely delightful. Unfortunately, “My Piece of the Pie” isn’t the kind of indie charmer Mr. Klapisch used to make. Because it aims to be a commercial success — and indeed, it topped the French box-office chart and beat “Battle: Los Angeles” — it ceases to be actually crowd-pleasing.

MY PIECE OF THE PIE

Opens on Dec. 9 in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Cédric Klapisch; director of photography, Christophe Beaucarne; edited by Francine Sandberg; music by Loïk Dury and Christophe Minck; costumes by Anne Schotte; produced by Bruno Lévy; released by Sundance Selects. In French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Karin Viard (France), Gilles Lellouche (Steve), Audrey Lamy (Josy), Jean-Pierre Martins (J P), Zinedine Soualem (Ahmed), Raphaële Godin (Mélody), Lunis Sakji (Alban) and Flavie Bataillie (Lucie).

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