Kristin Scott Thomas’s fluency in both French and English qualifies her for all kinds of movies, but there are too many of them and she doesn’t always live up to her potential. In Love Crime, the final film by the late Alain Corneau, sporting an unflattering, mousy brown coif better suited to a suburban commuter than a powerful and fashionable executive, she appears in one of her duller efforts. She is Christine, the cold, demanding and ruthless senior VIP of a multinational company doing deals anywhere in the world where money is more important than life, or often considered one and the same. Everyone she has ever defeated in business considers her a bona fide bitch except her loyal young assistant, Isabelle (pretty Ludivine Sagnier, last seen as the self-centered mistress of evil Uday Hussein in The Devil’s Double). This girl is a slave and a dupe to her boss, who flatters her insincerely and kisses her seductively, simultaneously flirting and plotting her downfall. Things move smoothly for a while, with Isabelle doing the dirty work and Christine taking all of the credit for herself. But light dawns when the younger woman’s cleverness and business acumen land an important contract for the company while her manipulative boss steals her ideas, takes full advantage of her success and claims the victory. (Think Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl.) The stage is set for a war of cat and mouse, and that’s exactly what happens after Isabelle sleeps with Christine’s boyfriend, Philippe, a wimp who owes the company money. Christine controls Philippe’s debt and Isabelle’s future, forcing him to unceremoniously dump his new playmate, but hell hath no fury like a social-climbing ingénue with a broken heart. Isabelle plots an elaborate revenge to murder her boss and frame the lover who betrayed her. The ruse is so elaborate it doesn’t always make sense. Close attention must be paid as Isabelle builds her clues. The characters are illogical (why does the sweet young girl go to bed with her boss’s squeeze in the first place?). The plotting is too complex for the slogging pace and the slight edge in tone collapses after Christine’s homicide. (Sorry to lose Kristin Scott Thomas so early.)
The revenge motive flounders when Isabelle goes to prison and bides her time until she can fake her innocence and establish an alibi. The delay in revealing how she gets away with her crime is unnecessarily prolonged, and the final twist, when another underling turns the tables again, is too All About Eve for comfort. The two-handed duet at the center of Love Crime radiates, but the parade of easily parodied men who stomp in and out of their corporate offices just seem like script rejects from Mad Men. That show makes any send-up of office politics as quaint and redundant as Mamie Eisenhower’s pill-box hat.
Running Time 106 minutes
Written and Directed by Alain Corneau
Starring Ludivine Sagnier and Kristin Scott Thomas