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May 3, 2024 / Vertical

Starring: Maïwenn, Johnny Depp, Robin Renucci, Pierre Richard, Noémie Lvovsky, Marianne Basler, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poupaud, Micha Lescot, India Hair, Benjamin Lavernhe

Directed By: Maïwenn

Jeanne Vaubernier (Maïwenn), a working-class woman determined to climb the social ladder, uses her charms to escape her impoverished life as the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress. Her lover, the Comte du Barry (Melvil Poupaud), wishes to present her to King Louis XV (Johnny Depp) and orchestrates a meeting through the influential Duke of Richelieu (Pierre Richard).

The encounter goes far beyond his expectations, because it was love at first sight for the King and Jeanne. Through this ravishing courtesan, the king rediscovers his appetite for life and feels he can no longer live without her. Making Jeanne his last official mistress, scandal erupts as no one at Court wants to accept a girl from the streets into their rarified world.

Written By Kurt Morrison

Rating 3 out of 5

Inarguably one of the faces of his acting generation, Johnny Depp has fallen off our film fan radar for a few years during his tumultuous separation from Amber Heard. And in surprising form has returned to the big screen as King Louie XV, not missing a beat, starring alongside Writer/Director Maiwenn in Jeanne Du Barry.

Jeanne du Barry chronicles the journey of its protagonist from humble beginnings to her eventual prominence. Born into obscurity, Jeanne du Barry captured the admiration of the wealthy elite, utilizing her charm to ascend the social hierarchy. Ultimately, she attained a prominent position as the King of France's public mistress. Despite the King's favor, Jeanne faced vehement opposition from those who considered her unworthy of such attention.

In his portrayal, Johnny Depp delves once more into themes of romance and charm, yet as Louis XV, he adopts an air of discretion and composure. This marks a departure from his typically lighthearted roles, though glimpses of his humor and zest for life do shine through. Nonetheless, the true luminary of the movie is Maïwenn, a gifted actress who embodies the adult Jeanne with captivating allure, ensnaring both the King's heart and that of many others she encounters.

Maïwenn truly shines in her role, allowing her to delve into a spectrum of emotions, from affection and fervor to sorrow and dismissal. She fully manifests a character that easily earns affection and admiration while maintaining her dignity. I genuinely had never heard of Maïwenn prior to this film, but have decided to dig a little deeper into her filmography after Jeanne Du Barry, simply because of how magnificent she was in this.

On the flipside of her acting, I felt that the achilles heel of the film was her script and pacing. Clocking in at 116 minutes, the film could have shaved off ten minutes or so, simply by deciding upon what to emphasize more direction towards. Example - as the first half of the film narrows in on Jeanne’s ‘rise’ from the working class to finding her way into the walls of Versailles, the pacing of it felt very dragged on. It isn’t until the second half of the movie where her relationship with King Louie has begun to flourish, sometimes showcasing a hot and heavy side while other times emoting genuine care, compassion and love, that I actually felt invested in the story.

It’s that lack of tightness and ability to draw towards the truly remarkable parts of Jeanne’s life that makes it feel a little…lethargic for a nearly two hour film.

For all that shines from both Maïwenn and Depp’s performances, the true beauty comes from shooting locations. Using Paris and Versailles fluidly throughout to tell this rapturous story, Maïwenn and her cinematographer Laurent Dailland understand the beauty in the French Countryside and easily take advantage of the grandiose scale of the Palaces. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure if they were actually able to pull off shooting at the real life locations, but as I scoured the internet researching, I was able to find that Maïwenn’s attention to detail in terms of the historical accuracy and the carefulness to the rich history of Versailles was something that allowed for her and her film crew to be given such a shooting privilege. And it paid off because it is a very gorgeous looking film at times.

The costume design is absolutely impeccable in Jeanne, and when comparing it to a film like say Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, which had a $200million+ budget, it is fascinating to me to find out that Jeanne cost a mere $22 million because of how polished the sets are and how intricate the costumes have been designed.

Even with the turmoil of its star and sometimes bad pacing, Jeanne Du Barry does a really good job at making you forget its clumsiness and is a big delight. Its ability to intertwine aristocratic drama with well placed comedy while being a beautiful and lavish glimpse into France’s social scene really does do the story justice and I hope it continues to bring both Maïwenn and Depp back to our North American audience.

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