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‘The Crime Is Mine’ review: A charming screwball drama from François Ozon

Moira Macdonald – The Seattle Times (TNS)

Here is my nominee for best line in a 2024 movie thus far: “That crime is unavailable!” spoken in French at screwball pace by a wonderfully beflustered investigating judge (Fabrice Luchini). I can’t explain the context without spoiling the fun, so do yourself a favor and go see “The Crime Is Mine,” a delicious bit of French froth from master director François Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “8 Women,” “In the House,” “Frantz“).

Set in a gloriously stylized 1930s Paris — and based on a play from that era, loosely adapted by Ozon — it’s a “Chicago”-like story of murder, scandal and celebrity, with some world-class scene-stealing tossed in. Said scene-stealing (say that three times fast, which I’m sure everyone in this film could do) comes from the great Isabelle Huppert, who swans into the movie midway through wearing an emerald Sarah Bernhardt-ish cape and a hat that looks like her head unexpectedly exploded, and proceeds to hold the rest of the film in her perfectly gloved hands. If we get the 2024 we deserve, she will do this in every movie. Huppert’s character’s name is Odette Chaumette, which is about to become my nom de plume.

Even aside from La Huppert, “The Crime Is Mine” sparkles. Its plot involves two young women — Madeleine (Nadia Tereszkiewicz), a struggling actress, and Pauline (Rebecca Marder), an unemployed lawyer — whose biggest problem is that they’re five months behind on their rent … until Madeleine goes on a casting call after which a lecherous producer turns up dead. Luckily she’s got an attorney on hand, and even more luckily, she’s photogenic and quickly finds tabloid fame while on trial. Ozon gives the film an irresistible screwball silliness (there are moments where “The Crime Is Mine” playfully threatens to become — mon Dieu! — a musical) and lets his actors have a ball, and yet manages to delicately thread a feminist message through it all. And Philippe Rombi’s jaunty score, sounding like a dream of a ’30s movie, hits the happiest of notes.

This charmer is sure to brighten the darkest of winter nights.

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‘THE CRIME IS MINE’

(In French with English subtitles)

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Not rated (for mature audiences)

Running time: 1:42

How to watch: Now in theaters

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©2024 The Seattle Times. Visit seattletimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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