La Daronne Review
An intriguing, and relatively lighthearted, story of drug running in Paris.
Isabelle Huppert plays Patience Portefeux - a translator working for the Parisian police, who specialises in Arabic. In the midst of a sting operation, she discovers that the smuggler is the son of the nurse caring for her mother, and so she tips him off. Later, she discovers where he stashed the weed he was smuggling, and decides to use her language skills to sell it for herself. As she becomes ‘Mama Weed’, she has to manage the suspicions of her boyfriend, the police chief, and avoid the retribution of a rival drug crew.
La Daronne is a quick, fun and engaging piece. It takes an incredibly light-hearted view of the drug-running world in Paris, for better or for worse, and in doing so this feels like a really accessible piece of French cinema.
Huppert is, as always, the stand out - although it does feel at times like she is cruising through this material. Then again, there isn’t really anything here to challenge an actress of her calibre. This is a movie with pretty much zero stakes, no big shocks or twists, and a happy ending all around. Huppert has no real moral complexity to grapple with, and the fact she is selling drugs ironically never triggers a moral conundrum for her.
There are lots of fun asides, in particular Patience’s relationship with the asian community in her building, and the building manager specifically. It brings the tone firmly into the comedic. The rest of the cast varies in quality and remarkability, but that never really takes away from the quality of the film.
In the end, this is a farce, and the believability of the situation is certainly stretched to the limit. Nevertheless, it’s a perfectly enjoyable time in the cinema - just not a memorable one.
La Daronne is an oddly light-hearted take on this material, but it’s also perfectly fun to watch.