Everyone fears the process of aging. It unleashes realisations of mortality, nostalgia, regret, and the dreaded loss of youth. The French are no strangers to these ideas, but director Blandine Lenoir tackles these topics with a comedic and feministic twist. Instead of viewing the existential problems of middle-class, intellectual men – the convention in many European movies, as well as in lauded literature – Lenoir gives us those of a working-class woman for a change.
I Got Life! follows middle-class waitress Aurore (Agnès Jaoui) as she endures a difficult mid-life crisis, with many problems surfacing and re-surfacing in this stressful period. As well as hot flushes, she loses her job, her eldest daughter Marina (Sarah Suco) announces her pregnancy, and she bumps into an old lover (Thibault de Montalembert). Aurore must try and keep her head together, but proves difficult as she keeps getting into funny and irritating situations.
Like many French films, I Got Life! unfolds as a slice-of-life comedy without much sway from the present. The past is occasionally brushed into the visuals and the dialogue, but the backstories are left largely to our imagination. This promises a certain degree of realism in the film, particularly when considering the nicely irrelevant details – one of which is the use of wind, which tends to be used for melodramatic effect, and here feels more like a circumstance of living in France rather than Hollywood. But Lenoir can’t quite decide whether she wants realism or romanticism. You can sense the pale influence of the nouvelle vague and its pursuit of spontaneity, but this is abandoned towards the end for a fantasy worthy of Richard Curtis.
The film feels more like a collection of short, comedic episodes than a 90-minute feature. This often works with Lenoir’s pursuit of realism, but doesn’t fit with the fantasy that eventually emerges. The scenes themselves are often hilarious and the feministic angle gives male audiences insight into the daily annoyances and aggravations that women endure. Lenoir expresses these moments in a comedic light, but does open your eyes to these realities. The relationship between Aurore and her two daughters is the strongest aspect of the film, and should’ve been given a tighter focus than it is. The scenes between Jaoui, Suco, and Lou Roy-Lecollinet (who plays the younger daughter, Lucie) are the most compelling and at times remind you of the refreshing relationship between Rory and Lorelai in Gilmore Girls.
The central performances are naturalistic and fun, and Jaoui manages to carry the entire film on her shoulders – there’s never a scene without her in it. Montalembert is also a charming presence, appearing like a more dashing version of Brit-actor Roger Allan (best known as Peter Mannion in The Thick of It), and provides an instant and awkward connection between his and Aurore’s characters.
I Got Life! succeeds in its humour, which is often hilarious and never embarrassing – especially in scenes with Pascale Arbillot, who plays Aurore’s extroverted best-friend. The many little stories touched upon throughout are largely unexplored and unexplained, sometimes not even being interesting enough to be memorable. But the film has charm, and never feels boring – a pleasant way to kill 90 minutes.
I Got Life is released nationwide on 23rd March 2018.