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Queen to Play

192 customer reviews

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(Aug 16, 2011)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Kevin Kline, Sandrine Bonnaire, Jennifer Beals
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: August 16, 2011
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,439 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Queen to Play" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 18, 2011
Format: DVD
I like films where the main character experiences a self awakening. My guess is a lot of Americans (particularly now) feel like they're just plugged into the wall. They grind it out day to day and look for whatever little time they can to find some peaceful corner to do something that means something to them. This is one of those films.

Sandrine Bonnaire and her husband live, with their teenage daughter, on an Island off of the French mainland. They are both laborers. They eke out a living but not much more. While working as a maid in a hotel, she sees a young, in love, couple absorbed in a game of chess. It somehow captures her imagination and she convinces a local doctor (Kevin Klein) to teach her to play. This leads to her personal adventure.

This is a heck of a movie. Kevin Klein does his usual good job but this movie belongs to Sandrine. She is great. Her face runs through so many subtle expressions throughout the film that I was simply riveted. During much of what happens she wears a weary, worried look. It's as though she's always waiting for the other shoe to drop. As she becomes more absorbed in chess, and you see her crack a smile now and again, the sun comes out. The way her relationships change wither her daughter, husband and the doctor is also something to behold. Hollywood would have done this but it probably would not have been as subtle. Then there's the tournament. I found it to be handled in a mature fashion. This could have been too overwrought in the hands of a lesser director. Much of this movie thrives on that same understatement.

I do wonder how much this movie was trimmed. I have a feeling there were many more scenes with her and her girlfriends. And one scene with Klein looked to have been edited with a machete. The jump in the action was so jarring it freaked me. But these are minor quibbles compared to how good it is overall. If you're into this sort of thing you couldn't do much better.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By MJ Adams on May 19, 2010
Format: DVD
Viewed inflight on Turkish Airlines. Our heroine is an unfulfilled housewife/cleaner who becomes empowered through her discovery of chess. Intrigued by the game but without knowing how to play, she soon learns that the Queen is the most powerful piece. This discovery becomes a metaphor for her own self realisation as she perseveres to learn and takes on what is unfortunately still a male province ( most chess clubs such as mine in Guildford UK have few if any women members). Although chess is featured throughout the movie, knowledge of the game itself is not required of the viewer - although chess enthusiasts will immediately identify with magical as well as the cerebral and competetive nature of the game. This is a really nice film - and if it inspires anyone to take up the game itself, that would be great.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By G. Teslovich on September 16, 2011
Format: DVD
An inspiring chess movie because the democratic essence of the game prevails even when overcoming such obstacles as gender and class bias. But too, the story is as much about battles of all kinds as it is about chess.

We find in this film that a cleaning women's life changes because she says, "I exist, too. I have an interest. I will work at it because it matters to me." She learns, as we all do, that if you take a risk you may lose, but if you do not take risks you will lose.

Beautiful and subtle, yet appropriate, soundtrack and cinematography. Dialogue simple yet profound. Acting - spot on.

Again, foreign studios seem to be outclassing LA and NY - not even close. Well, OK, we have bigger CGI effects' computers and budgets.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Troy Doman on April 29, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video
For those who'd like a rating to help decide to view it or not: R for one usual, but needless, intense sexual scene between husband and wife, though clad, is too graphic for a PG-13. Otherwise, enjoy the film!

A lovely little film: beautiful setting, lovely music, different plot, pleasant ending and quality acting. Refreshing to hear USA actor, Kevin Kline, in a French speaking role, which he does quite well.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dee J. on July 12, 2011
Format: DVD
Kevin Kline speaking French? Who knew! He gives a wonderful performance in "Queen to Play" and even made me appreciate the game of chess (which I am sad to say I don't play - but maybe will, now.)

Award-winning French actress Sandrine Bonnaire is someone I've watched in a couple of films in the past, but is remarkable in her role here. Jennifer Beals isn't a major player, but it's nice to see her included.

The scenery will make you long to visit the French countryside; brilliant cinematography! I highly recommend Queen to Play for anyone; it's a great date movie, too.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jody TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 13, 2011
Format: DVD
Chess is one of the stars of this lovely little movie, but Sandrine Bonnaire's Helene steals the spotlight from Mme. Chess. You simply can't take your eyes off her. Kevin Kline is a possibly dying chess expert who reluctantly tutors his femme du menage (maid) Helene in the intricacies of the game. The subtleties and development of their relationship are exquisitely portrayed, as is the arc of resentment, acceptance and eventual pride of Helene's husband Ange and daughter Lisa.

This is simply a wonderful movie. This is not only a chess story, it's a Pygmalion as well. It's typically French in that all the loose ends aren't tied up. We don't know, for example, what's wrong with Dr. Kroger's health, nor if Helene's colleague at the hotel marries her fiance and has four children. That's OK. The story that's there is perfection and it's not necessary to know chess to love it. Just watch Helene's face as she puzzles out a move. "That's the work," says Dr. Kroger when she complains it's too hard. Yes it is, and such a perfect little parable of life.
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