A sun-washed but pleasingly cerebral tale of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, Caroline Bottaro's Queen to Play
uses chess as its vehicle for a heroine's taking wing. Yes, that's right, chess: and those of you rolling your eyes at the idea that the slow-moving brain-game might be a dynamic agent of change are in for a nice surprise. Chess is somehow just right for the wonderful Sandrine Bonnaire, grave-faced star of many a serious French film (Vagabond
, Monsieur Hire
). Bonnaire plays a chambermaid living with her family on the Corsican coast; while cleaning the rooms of glamorous types, she becomes intrigued by a couple playing chess in seemingly intimate circumstances (the cameo by Jennifer Beals in these scenes is one of the film's only missteps). The maid's new enthusiasm--let's call it an obsession, actually--with the game leads her to unexpected mastery of it, a development that doesn't sit well with her blue-collar, traditional husband (Francis Renaud). Chess also brings her to the attention of an expat widower (Kevin Kline, executing his French dialogue with his usual precise aplomb), a picky fellow intrigued by this earnest woman who showed up to dust his shelves and now sits across from him at his chessboard. The movie's various evolutions may be a little too neat overall, but there's something about the solemnity of chess and the grounded-in-the-real-world demeanor of Sandrine Bonnaire that makes it all very gratifying to watch. She's not a pawn in anybody's game. --Robert Horton
Oscar®-winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda
) and the luminous Sandrine Bonnaire (La Cérémonie
) square off in this stylish and sophisticated dramedy of newfound passions and mid-life triumphs, set on the postcard-perfect isle of Corsica.
Lovely, repressed and quietly intelligent, French chambermaid Hélène (Bonnaire) comes upon a couple (The L Word
's Jennifer Beals and Marie Antoinette
's Dominic Gould) engaged in an intensely sensual chess match, and discovers she has a knack for the game. This obsession much to the chagrin of her husband and teenaged daughter leads her to seek the clandestine tutelage of a reclusive American doctor (Kline, in his first French-speaking role) a liaison that radically transforms both of their lackluster lives. Based on Bertina Henrichs acclaimed novel La Joueuse d<'>echec (The Chess Player, Queen to Play is the auspicious feature film debut of French director and screenwriter Caroline Bottaro.
- Beautiful high-definition transfer, enhanced for widescreen viewing
- Joueuse, Le Making of: A 20-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, featuring interviews with actors Kevin Kline, Sandrine Bonnaire, Jennifer Beals and director Caroline Bottaro
- U.S. theatrical trailer