Joueuse (Queen to Play) (2011)
Oscar (R) winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, The Ice Storm) and the luminous Sandrine Bonnaire (Vagabond, 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) discovers her love for chess when, one day, she comes upon a couple (The L Word's Jennifer Beals and Marie Antoinette's Dominic Gould) engaged in an intense match. This obsession with the game, 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. -- (C) Zeitgeist … More
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Critics Consensus: Source Code Is Certified Fresh
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Critic Reviews for Joueuse (Queen to Play)
Subplots involving the heroine's resentful husband and rebellious teenage daughter never amount to much, though the story builds toward a satisfactory, if formulaic, climax.
"Queen to Play" falls somewhat into the "Pygmalion" template, but watching Bonnaire's Helene find herself makes it worthy in its own right.
There's something particularly enjoyable about settling into a film whose pleasures reside in quiet moments, understated performances and the reading of subtitles.
We've seen it over and over in the movies, but "Play" has an understated charm and convincing performances - and a palpable love of chess - that makes it work well enough.
Nearly everything about Queen to Play works, but what really sells the film -- apart from the freshness of the subject matter -- lies in the performances.
Queen To Play, however, competes on a very high level as a story of an inner journey that's not simply black-and-white.
Subtle and evocative...as formulaic in its own way as 'Rocky' (or, if you prefer, 'Searching for Bobby Fischer'), but it's a more cerebral, sophisticated use of the formula than usual.
Perhaps the only film in which a board game leads to a woman's happiness.
The miraculous Sandrine Bonnaire, with help from the dependable Kevin Kline, transforms a routine heartwarmer scenario into a thing of beauty.
Audience Reviews for Joueuse (Queen to Play)
A nice, quiet afternoon movie. No thrills. No excitement. A little slow, but interesting at the same time...something French films are famous for.More
An attempt to answer why the queen is more powerful than the king in the game of chess, Queen To Play intelligently explores the nature of midlife crises that often lead to transformed passions and self-discovery. Inspiring.More
A wonderful story of a woman who finds herself capable of more than she ever imagined. Sandrine Bonnaire as Helene, a hotel chambermaid, and Kevin Kline as Doctor Kroger, her mentor, are marvelous. Her obsession with the game of chess forms the background for this story, but it is the interaction between these two characters that drives the narrative. Each seems to draw out the best in the other. Dr Kroger has shunned most human contact since the death of his wife, and Helene seems to be just going through the motions of her life. As the two find a common interest in the game of chess, they each find they have more to offer than either of them believed. Filmed in Corsica, the scenery is beautiful, the dialog is interesting, and a thorough knowledge of chess is not necessary to be able to appreciate the interplay between the two main characters. This viewer was enraptured.More
In "Queen to Play," Helene(Sandrine Bonnaire) and Ange(Francis Renaud) have trouble making ends meet, especially with the 400 euros they pay so their teenaged daughter Lisa(Alexandra Gentil) can take a school trip to England. With work slow in the shipyards where Ange works, Helene picks up the slack cleaning rooms at a hotel where she witnesses a chess match between two American guests(Jennifer Beals & Dominic Gould) which makes her want to learn the game herself. After buying an electronic chess set for her husband for his birthday, she then asks Dr. Kroger(Kevin Kline), who she also cleans for, to give her lessons.
"Queen to Play" is a gently engaging movie that uses chess as a metaphor but takes it in a different direction than normal. Usually, chess is presented as a game between adversaries with high stakes or on the other end of the spectrum with the pawns. Here, the emphasis is on the queen, which as the movie states is the most powerful piece on the board but also one that should not be deployed too early, symbolizing Helene's late blooming with finally the inspiration and encouragement she has sorely been lacking. That's not all as I suspect she is sexually turned on by the American woman but then Jennifer Beals could make anything look sexy.(Notice that after that first meeting, Helene goes right to her husband's work place and later tries to put the nightgown to good use.) Chess is also a sport(A friend of mine would love to hear it referred to as such. She claimed chess was a sport since it was written about in Sports Illustrated. Works for me.) where it is important to think moves ahead(which I never did when I played in college, playing it like a war of attrition which confounded my opponent) which is hard for Helene and Ange to do in their lives since they are forced to live paycheck to paycheck.
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