France – Critics’ Week
For a film so dependent on the sympathy towards its main star, picking Gerard Depardieu is a risky choice these days.
Cannes Critics’ Week opener is a surprisingly conservative film to kick off the edgiest of events happening in the Croisette this summer. On paper the proposition is seductive, after all, Constance Meyer’s debut feature marks the return of French giant Gerard Depardieu, in a role about an aging film star named Georges, disenchanted with his trade. Yes, the shoe should fit the foot, but it is ironically there where the film seems to hit a giant impenetrable wall.
More positively, “Robuste” also introduces us to Aissa (Deborah Lukumuena), a security guard and wrestler, fortunate to land what at first glance appears to be a safe and easy gig: become Georges new assistant. Even though they come from two worlds drastically apart, both are connected by their struggle to find meaning in their loveless existence. Aissa involvement with a young boxer who trains at her gym provides a short-lived hope for a better future. But soon it all becomes clear that the two protagonists are no different from the charmingly “monstrous” fish from the deep Georges keeps in a fish tank, unwanted and undesired.
Neither character has a chance to dwell into particularly interesting or outstanding territories to be fair, but there is a giant hole between Lukumuena’s and Depardieu’s effort and involvement on screen. While she puts it all out in the portrayal of her emotional rollercoaster, carrying “Robuste” weight on her back single-handedly, he appears uninterested in general, pleased enough with living the cliché of a grumpy old actor who overeats and drinks more than he should.
Despite this hurdle, Constance Meyer’s direction is unquestionably competent and irreprehensible, appropriately seasoned to the context of the film in every possible way, provoking inevitably some curiosity and interest about Meyer’s future works. Whatever faults are notoriously clear in this film, it is all down to casting and her own thin scrip, which more often than not, prioritizes its bland humor instead of placing most of its bets in its dramatic potential.
Ultimately “Robuste” is a painfully middle-class film that should play well in some circles, and a successful run in the festival and commercial circuit is expected, but it is destined to be easily lost and forgotten in the future.
By Fernando Vasquez