Romain Duris and Déborah François in PopulaireIf The Artist was a flawless recreation of the silent era, then Populaire is a sumptuous homage to the kind of chirpy Doris Day and Rock Hudson rom-coms which personified Hollywood during the 50s and 60s. This is a frothy and stylish French romantic fable with an unlikely yet endearing Rocky-like central premise.

Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) is a provincial French girl with big city aspirations, much to the disappointment of her conservative shopkeeper father. She manages to muscle her way into a coveted secretary role for an insurance agency run by the dashing Louis Échard (Romain Duris). To her boss’s bemusement, Rose is pretty inept in almost every aspect of her role, with one glowing exception. She possesses amazing, lightning-speed typing skills, and Échard immediately spots the potential fame and opportunities her talent might bring.

Thus begins Rose’s rigorous training schedule as she competes for a place in the national finals in the speed typing championship, and possibly beyond. With Échard filling the role of her trainer and employer, their relationship becomes increasingly blurred as feelings between the two surface.

The promo poster for Populaire features the reductive, easily-marketable claim that the film is ‘Mad Men meets The Artist’. In reality, it’s more a mixture of the aforementioned Stallone series and Maggie Gyllenhaal sado-romance, Secretary’. Some female audience members may take umbrage at Échard’s sometimes almost sadistic pleasure in whipping his protégée into fighting shape. Thankfully, the two attractive leads steer the film away from any misogynistic undertones and they help ensure it remains vibrant and airy throughout.

François radiates a sweet naivety, yet there is also a stubbornness and determination to succeed in there which makes her all the more appealing. Duris is perfectly cast as the opportunist cad (with a heart) and his chiselled, unmistakably Gallic good looks immediately give off the impression that he’s been plucked from the very period the film is set in.

While the plot sticks resolutely to that predictable Will They/Won’t They? formula reminiscent in the narrative of those films being referenced, it’s still a surprisingly engaging tale. A large part of this is down to the dramatic, beautifully-staged typing ‘bouts’. While initially a surreal sight, Rose’s type-offs settle into the kind of gripping-to-watch competitiveness found in the very best sport films, albeit from an inherently humorous vantage point.

As light and fluffy as a freshly-baked soufflé (bravo for the non-gratuitous but full-bodied sex scene in a 12A) Populaire may not linger long in the memory afterwards, but it’s a fun, light-hearted jaunt and, for the most part, will have you smiling from ear-to-ear.