THE GILDED CAGE. Starring Rita Blanco, Joaquim de Almeida. Directed by Ruben Alves. Rated M (Coarse language) 90 minutes.
This is one of those French comedies which are light on the surface but have something to say underneath. Perhaps it should be stressed that this is a combination of French and Portuguese comedy, the central characters, husband and wife, who migrated from Portugal 30 years earlier and have worked in Paris ever since, bringing up their children as Brazilians and French. The director is Portuguese and is visualising his memories and experiences.
The Gilded Cage has proven itself a box-office winner in Europe, where audiences will identify with the situations in these two diverse countries of the European Union. It travels beyond Europe quite nicely but, probably, without the strong impact that it had there.
The focus is on a middle-aged couple, very well played by Rita Blanco and Joaquin de Almeida. We see the wife jauntily walking along a street, greeting everyone, and then we find that she is the concierge in an apartment block, at the beck and call of an elderly woman whose life is governed by whims, by a Chinese resident, by a couple with twins. She loves work and does not feel imposed on though that is what has happened to her for 30 years. Her husband works for a building construction company and he, in his turn, has been imposed on by the CEO of the company. They have two children, young adults.
Then something happens which transforms their lives, offering them the freedom that they have never experienced, and the possibility of returning to Portugal. The wife’s sister, wanting to set up a Portuguese restaurant in Paris, certainly does not want her sister to go back home and fabricates a story about her very ill husband who needs all kinds of help. And the residents of the apartments certainly do not want her to go, thinking that they could not manage without her. It is the same with the boss of the company, devising ways of making it impossible for his worker to leave him.
Then there is the complication of the son not wanting to leave Paris, and pretending to friends that he is well-to-do, ashamed of his parents, as well as the daughter being in love with the son of the construction boss.
Comedy is to the fore as the couple toy with the idea of being wealthy and trying to keep up with their more affluent friends, especially a meal with all its disruptions, something that the French do so well. Needless to say, there are plenty of crises, especially with the younger generation and the couple’s friends. The daughter’s crisis is beautifully resolved when she goes with her fiancé to a Portuguese restaurant and listen to a singer with a beautiful ballad about Portugal.
Where there’s a will there’s a way – and the trouble started with a will. However, where there’s goodwill there is also a good way and that is how it all ends up, cheerfully and everyone together.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out 12th December 2013.