Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Nobody Else But You (2011)

“Nobody Else But You” (A.K.A. “Poupoupidou”) perhaps attempts to ‘put a spell on you’, as the title credits roll with Martine Langevin (Sophie Quinton), better known as Candice Lecoeur to the world in this film, dressed in sheer white, croons the song (“I put a spell on you”) rather seductively, as fleeting, extreme close-ups of her appear (and disappear) on the screen.

The opening shot more or less hints at the fact that we aren’t really going to see or feel much of the enigmatic Candice, who’s at the center of this mystery that initially gives us an impression of being a tragedy of epic proportions. But alas! Initial appearances deceive, as the film quickly dilutes into a pedestrian detective suspense-thriller that in fact borrows elements (with a just excuse too) from the life story of and conspiracy theories surrounding the life and death of famous actress and sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe!

The story is narrated in the voice of Candice in a post-mortal tone, speaking from beyond the grave, as if writing in a diary, as she’s always been, through her teenage years. We are introduced to David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve, nuanced), a down-on-his-luck author suffering from a writer’s block. Although he has written quite a few books of detective fiction, he can’t seem to find a plot to pen his new novel. His publisher is after him to get something up soon or move on. David has travelled to the small, snow-clad town of Mouthe to collect some inheritance a relative left him. He stumbles upon a scene in an area where the body of blonde young girl found buried in the snow is being carried away. It is that of a starlet by the name of Martine, who took up the screen name of Candice Lecoeur, who has only been famous locally and is the face of the local cheese brand, as she has appeared in the commercials of the same. The police have closed the case as that of suicide as she was found with a bottle of pills in her hand, but David’s detective-fiction infested mind predictably suspects foul play!

David makes every attempt to gather clues, even going so far as to break into the morgue to take a closer look at her body, and also breaking into her now empty house to sniff out clues that could lead him to unlock the cause of Candice’s mysterious death. But for some strange reason, the authorities keep discouraging him and deem it an open and shut case of suicide following depression. Only the assistant police officer Bruno (Guillaume Gouix) who is also curious to know more, for his own reasons, is supportive of David and sees him as a means to find some answers, by not strictly adhering to the law.

And so the investigation continues, with David doing the snooping around, and Bruno helping him out every way he can using his police power, in order to find the whole truth behind Candice’s death. David hopes to find some substance, to possibly revive his dead creativity by writing about Candice’s death and the ensuing investigations! But the mystery thickens, as David unearths that Candice firmly believed herself to be the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe herself, and that, in an eerie coincidence, the events in her life very closely paralleled those of the late Hollywood star…..!

The Marilyn Monroe connection is probably the only aspect that distinguishes “Nobody Else But You” from a conventional murder mystery cum detective story, but unfortunately, this angle is handled with an almost sarcastic triviality by the filmmakers, somewhat undoing what could’ve been a meaty thriller mirroring a real life tragedy. In the aforementioned voiceovers which are excerpts from the writings in Candice’s diary, one gets the impression that Candice has had a life of sadness and loneliness but there isn’t enough material to support this, apart from some fleeting yet blatant references to the personal relationships of Marilyn Monroe. The mood shifts from occasionally melancholic to sardonically comic. Maybe it is the modest length, but one wishes enough time was spent on footage of the woman in question, Candice. But the narrative proceeds in a rather clunky manner, and we get to see very little of Candice, as a result, yielding a half-baked character that doesn’t develop well, because the focus is mostly on David’s deductions, which sadly aren’t earth-shattering enough. Candice’s belief of being the reincarnation of Monroe and David’s findings which bear a striking resemblance to the happenings in Monroe’s life are treated in a rather non-serious fashion. The investigations see a gradual climb, but David stumbles upon clues in a convenient and casual manner and we are led to a culmination that is somewhat underwhelming. The ‘big secret’ is just not potent enough to make us sit up and take notice. To make matters worse, the film explores a number of clichés like the motel receptionist falling for David and he playing the reluctant object of affection, the very one-dimensional uncooperative police chief (Olivier Rabourdin), and the oft-used predictable device of attempts to sabotage David’s investigations by causing “accidents”, endangering his life, amongst other things.

Despite the predictabilities, the film somehow stays afloat and ends up being watchable, even though the narrative is mostly focused on David instead of Candice who we would’ve loved to see and know more about. The cinematography is marvelous. Snow-covered landscapes never looked this beautiful since “Fargo”! There is also a peculiar aspect of the number ‘5’ appearing in the frame in various scenes involving David. Like, the number of David’s motel room is '5', so is the number of the bowling alley where he plays later. This could be easily missed, but it gives an additional surreal quality to the narrative. The significance of it is not explored in detail but it’s an interesting little facet.

Jean-Paul Rouve’s performance is subtle and very likeable. His straight-faced humorous outlook smoothly shifts to a lot more somber and back with ease. The same can’t be said about his partner-in-investigations, supporting actor Guillaume Gouix who is mostly wooden. Sophie Quinton is an awesome lady and with whatever scope she gets she pulls her part off convincingly as the starlet who thinks she is Marilyn Monroe reborn, but she can’t hold a candle to the definitive charisma of the effervescent yesteryear blonde beauty. Maybe more screen time and a meatier, better written character at hand and Quinton would probably have made a bigger impression than she does here.

Writer-director Gérald Hustache-Mathieu’s “Nobody Else But You” just about makes it but also gives us the feeling that this was an opportunity not fully exploited. It is like an underdone meal, one which had your favorite ingredients, but was taken out too quickly from the oven! There was so much one could do with the plot at hand…!

Score: 6.5/10.

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