The latest Milwaukee Film Member screening was the French comedy Paulette. The movie will also screen during the Film Festival in the new program Film Feast. It is a funny movie that will keep you laughing but at times it is an uncomfortable laugh as the main character is mostly just mean.
Paulette is a former baker who has fallen on tough times. Her husband has died and she lost her bakery. Now living by herself she is not able to make ends meet and scavenges garbage cans for food. Paulette is also racist and does not have a problem telling people how she feels. This racism has affected her relationship with her daughter who married a black guy and has a son. She has a few friends that she plays cards with but isn’t real nice to them either. One day her son-in-law comes over and asks about a drug dealer in her apartment complex and this gets her thinking. She decides to find the dealer and convinces him to let her sell some drugs because no one will expect and grandmother of selling marijuana. Eventually he lets her try and she does a decent job. But after some run ins with other pot dealers she rethinks things and decides she can use her experience as a baker to her advantage and starts her own business baking food laced with marijuana and her business is a huge success. And of course the big wigs want a piece of her action. If you ever wondered what Breaking Bad would have looked like if instead of Walter White cooking meth you had a racist grandmother cooking pot brownies this is your answer.
What makes the movie so amusing is Paulette’s unabashed way of talking. She slings racial slurs at everyone she meets including her priest, son-in-law, and even her grandson. No one is safe from her verbal abuse as she is unable to deal with the changing world and blames all the new people moving into her city. It is funny to see a little old lady go up against a big Italian mafia type and lets him have it verbally. Paulette is played by Bernadette Lafont in her last role before she died last year. She is one of the reasons the movie works so well and isn’t just a complete failure. Her performance gives the comedic edge that keeps Paulette likable despite being mean. The other thing that works is the screenplay. It is snappy and very funny and even the movie is somewhat predictable it is fun to go for the ride.
What gives me mixed reactions to this movie is all the racist talk. Should a racism be funny even if it is coming from a grandmother? I am not sure and it made me a little uncomfortable laughing at parts. There are parts that are kind of sad and really makes you struggle feeling bad for her. For example when she ostracizes her grandson. When she is not ignoring him she is calling him names and refuses to be called his grandma. The big question is does she ever learn anything and change her attitudes at the end? The answer is not really. She seems to be changing at least towards her grandson and maybe by the end even appreciates her son-in-law a little, but her world outlook never really seems to changes. With racism making the news a lot it does make one think about our attitudes toward racists and does make laughing at a racist a bit more uncomfortable.
Overall 3/5 a very funny movie and if I had seen it any other time might have scored higher but in light of recent events it makes me question our attitudes toward racists even grandmother racists that cook pot brownies. I do wish the movie made it clear she changed her attitude at the end and not just towards her grandson.