THE ROSE MAKER (La fine fleur)

Music Box Films
Reviewed for &, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Pierre Pinaud
Screenwriters: Fadette Drouard, Blandine Jet, Philippe Le Guay, Pierre Pinaud
Cast: Catherine Frot, Manel Foulgoc, Fatsah Bouyahmed, Olivia Côte, Marie Petiot, Vincent Dedienne
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 3/10/21
Opens: April 1, 2022

Flowers are like people. Both need to be cultivated. Without the strong presence of a woman with a greenhouse in the former case, and without the loving attention that parents must devote to their children, both will go bad. The flowers will deteriorate; the people may turn to crime and other anti-social activities. To that extent, “The Rose Maker” is allegorical. However like all good allegories—“Gulliver’s Travels,” “Moby Dick,” “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” “Animal Farm,” “Lord of the Rings”—the story speaks for itself. “The Rose Maker” has a three-hankey ending, but that does not mean it’s merely a Hallmark card. The film is blessed with a strong, credible performance by sixty-five-year-old Catherine Frot, whom lovers of French cinema may have seen in the stunning lead role of “Marguerite,” about a diva who sings terribly but in her bubble thinks she’s Maria Callas. This is Pierre Pinaud’s sophomore full-length feature, whose “On Air” centers on a radio host who lives a reclusive life until she meets her real mother.

Catherine Frot inhabits the role of Eve Vernet, whose late father has left her a nursery for roses, but who is facing bankruptcy. Her roses are her passion, but she cannot compete with a corporate giant who undercuts her prices with the kind of inferior product that only a greedy corporate mogul like Lamarzelle (Vincent Dedienne) could turn out. Like developers in our own country, Lamarzelle wants to buy the smaller business out, perhaps believing that corporations can do well only if they expand, but Eve will not hear of it. Humiliating her dead father or working for Lamarzelle is a no-go.

She cannot afford help, but free labor is on the way when three convicts are introduced to her, released from jail but who cannot imagine at interest in growing flowers. Fred (Manel Foulgoc) is from Paris and has been caught each time he attempts a burglary. Samir (Farsah Bouyahmed) at fifty years, is the senior convict, while Nadege (Marie Pitiot), who has little to say, but whose expressions show terminal puzzlement (“what am I doing here?”) but has an insight later on that surprises the group. Eva is assisted as well by Véra (Olivia Côte), the office manager who regularly warns her boss that business is on the skids.

As the year passes, a skeptical Eve, reluctant at first about taking on the prisoners, may save her business using untapped knowledge and gifts of her crew—insights that are unlikely to be nurtured behind bars. Samir, remembering his high-school biology course, brings genetics to the table while Fred has the gift of smell, at least equal to his ability to pick locks. Fred is the kind of guy who might sniff wine and declare that it has a bouquet of oak, cedar, violet, apple, pineapple and incense. He would be an ideal employee for a perfumery. Right now, though, the three may have influenced Eve to perform a criminal act—to steal a prize plant from the corporate farmer, using the native skills of her band of miscreants. While the burglary looks as though it will save Eve’s company, making crime pay, things get more complicated.

“The Rose Maker” is billed as a comedy, one that, were the picture made by Hollywood, would turn it into a sitcom—vulgar at points, insisting on two laughs every minute. The French, however, bring out the healthy sentiment, perhaps leading its audience to turn politically leftward, embracing the progressive idea that prison is not way to treat minor offenders, but that work out in the sunny French countryside will produce the marvels that all honest, hard-working taxpayers hope for. If you have feeling at all, you won’t be able to resist a tear or two at the conclusion, going home as if you had just received a powerful sermon on a bright spring day.

In French with English subtitles.

94 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

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By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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