Revenge is a dish best served French.
Or at least that is the lesson of late director Alain Corneau’s final film “Love Crime,” a keenly crafted women-of-the-workplace thriller. That is to say that the French-language flick brings a savoir faire to the fine art of retaliation that is rarely seen thereby giving moviegoers an opportunity to stretch not only their emotions but also their intelligence around every titillating twist and turn.
In “Love Crime,” Kristen Scott Thomas plays Christine, a powerful executive who brings on a naive young ingénue named Isabelle (Ludivine Sagnier) as her assistant. Christine delights in toying with Isabelle’s innocence and teaching her hard lessons in a ruthless professional philosophy without concern for her feelings.
However, when the Isabelle’s ideas become tempting enough for Christine to pass one as her own, she underestimates her protege’s ambition and cunning. The ground is then set for all out war as Isabelle suddenly turns the tables, taking matters into her own hands with a scheme so intricate that nobody sees it coming.
The talented Thomas, who earlier this year was upstaged by a child actress in “Sarah’s Key,” is upstaged yet again – this time by Sagnier, whose cool-yet-vindictive performance makes the second half of “Love Crime” truly fascinating to watch unfold. That is good news, though, as it means the movie’s two leads are perfect foils of one another.
In all fairness to folks who may have adverse reactions to subtitles, the first 45 minutes of “Love Crime” are a bit tedious. Granted, from a storytelling point of view, one can appreciate Corneau’s attempt to build tension between the two characters thereby setting the stage for the resulting events. However, not knowing where things are going undoubtedly wears on one’s patience.
Fortunately – and you will have to take my word for this – the final hour of “Love Crime” is well worth the wait. If seeing surprise after surprise pull the rug out from under you is not enough, the excellent exercise in character study that slowly takes shape is frigidly fascinating. The result is not only entertaining but also sophisticatedly stimulating.
“Love Crime” (NR – 106 minutes) opens Friday exclusively at UltraScar Scottsdale Pavilions. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.