Le Grand Role

on May 06, 2005 by Kim Williamson
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Although the story of "Le Grand Role" as it progresses becomes increasingly focused on the relationship between husband Maurice (Stephane Freiss) and wife Perla (Berenice Bojo), which moves from a feast of adoration to a fear of separation as Perla is diagnosed with and continues to sicken from cancer, it opens buoyantly. Maurice, like his thespian-hopeful friends, is trying to make it in acting. Their shared hopes grow when an American icon of film directing, the improbably named Rudolph Grichenberg (Peter Coyote), decides to hold auditions locally for his planned Yiddish version of "The Merchant of Venice." At this point, the film-viewing pleasure--and it is substantial--comes from the warm camaraderie of the male friends and the intense romance between Maurice and Perla.

The "grand role" of the title, though, comes from the post-diagnosis decision of husband and friends to pretend to the bedbound Perla that Maurice has won the key role of Shylock in Grichenberg's latest, and is in fact going every day to the set; not only that, faked (also improbably) copies of magazines--such as an issue of Premiere with Maurice on the cover--left by the players for Perla's perusal lead her to believe her husband has achieved the fame she so wished for him. The movie's question becomes which will end first: their charade, or her life.

It's the second half of "Le Grand Role" that is the less strong of the two, surprisingly, given the increased depth of emotions at work. But director/co-writer Steve Suissa ("L'Envol"), adapting a novel by Daniel Goldenberg, proves more effective with sunnier playing; and the focus on the importance of the ruse's success undercuts some, though not all, of the tragedy of Perla's situation. Still, though not truly a grand film, "Le Grand Role" is a good one that could please most specialized audiences, especially couples. Starring Stephane Freiss, Berenice Bejo and Peter Coyote. Directed and produced by Steve Suissa. Written by Daniel Cohen, Sophie Tepper and Steve Suissa. A First Run release. Comedy/Drama. French- and English-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 89 min

Tags: Starring Stephane Freiss, Berenice Bejo, Peter Coyote, Directed and produced by Steve Suissa, Written by Daniel Cohen, Sophie Tepper, Steve Suissa, First Run, Comedy, Drama
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