Opening

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Joueuse (Queen to Play) Reviews

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Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

June 2, 2012
A nice, quiet afternoon movie. No thrills. No excitement. A little slow, but interesting at the same time...something French films are famous for.
Jan Marc M

Super Reviewer

September 10, 2011
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.
Mark A

Super Reviewer

February 19, 2012
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.
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

April 18, 2011
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.
November 23, 2011
The scenes between Kline and Sandrine Bonnaire swell up like froth off a newly opened cold beer on a very hot afternoon. There is no spilling. It's just about perfect with the indecision in the air, leaving us in an interminable joyous wait. This is Kline like he was in "Life as a house". I am noticing Sandrine for the first time. The story isn't much. Yeah, you might want to buy a chessboard immediately after this one gets over.
zutron
November 15, 2011
Being a midlife woman longing for something to spark a fire in me-- I strongly identified with this story. I can also identify with the seduction of the game as a wholely absorbing activity. The setting was gorgeous and the two central characters played beautifully off each other
ChGeor9
July 28, 2011
I thought the leads were very good in the story. I found it slow moving at times just like a game of Chess. I use to play chess whenin school, so I liked how the did playing the game.
June 17, 2011
Very pleasant to watch, one of the feel-good movies, chess is an interesting subject but the execution of the story was a little cliche.
CitizenCharlie
May 7, 2011
Everyone has their 'thing'. For some it truly can be a passion. Perhaps you know someone who reads all of the time, or a marathon runner, or a connoisseur of fine whiskey. My 'thing' is film and to a lesser extent music. I cannot stop watching and reading about movies. For my wife, she cannot stop exercising and to a lesser extent reading. For my new blog follower, her 'thing' appears to be a deep love of English literature dominated by Jane Eyre.

In Queen to Play (Joueuse), Helene's (Sandrine Bonnaire) passion is chess. Helene is Corsican and does not realize what her passion is until middle age. She has a teenage daughter, a marriage which is just going through the motions, and a soul crushing job as a hotel maid which does not give her time for hobbies, let alone a passion. While cleaning the room of a well to do American couple one morning, she eyes them from a distance while they play chess, a game she has only heard of, but never actually saw in action. The couple is very much in love and radiates a sense of ease and relaxation towards one another which Helene probably never thought possible between couples. Her brain now cannot stop studying the chess pieces, their respective movements, and the back and forth drama of a chess match.

Enter Kevin Kline as the tutor/mentor. Helene is employed as his cleaning lady and notices he has a chess board. Overcoming her natural shyness and aloofness, she asks to play him and they develop a sort of student/teacher bond over chess and later on, life. The most effective parts of the film occur as Helene interacts with her family and the strain which chess eventually puts on them as it alienates her husband and sets her up for mockery around town. The film's pacing and the audience's interest in Helene actually tapers off towards the end when she takes her newfound skills public and enters a tournament. The rise of the cleaning lady busting through the glass ceiling of professional chess plays more as a cliché gimmick than a feel good self improvement moment. The tournament lacks a certain amount of drama or suspense which is should have by that point. In fact, all scenes actually involving the playing of chess and the wary eye movements as opponents observe each other doesn't particularly work either. More of Helene and her life on Corsica and less actual chess (unless the director figures out a more effective way to show it) would raise this film up a bit more.
January 2, 2014
Great movie to begin the new year. "Take a risk and you may lose, risk nothing and you will lose."
October 26, 2013
Interesting film...it's a "light" watch. Journey of a married woman with "taking a risk" with chess...and her life... The quote is..."if you take a risk you may lose...if you don't take any risks, you always lose..." While it doesn't have "excitement"...it does have the simple heart...and when you need to be grounded...watch this film.
March 21, 2013
Better if one understands French and perhaps life itself!
November 28, 2012
This film is more delightful the second time around simply because Sandrine Bonnaire is so captivating an actor.
November 14, 2012
A nice sweet film of a cleaning woman wanting to learn chess and then goes on to winning the tournament inspite of all odds. A typical French film making style. without big background as is common with Hollywood films. This is good film to watch.
September 27, 2012
I loved the subtle non verbal acting in this poignant inspiring movie. A perfect example of how one affects those around them, creating initial moments of cayuse and frustration, when they decide to improve themselves. I enjoyed a movie that could show how a man and a woman could have a relationship that was enriching without being lovers or sexual. What a concept! Pfft...
August 14, 2012
I had to think, do I want to watch a movie about chess? And then I thought, well it can't really all be about chess, there has to be some other storylines there, right? Yes, but it's all woven around chess. I really liked this movie a lot.
May 9, 2012
Slow at times, but I'm glad I stuck with it, it's a feel good movie.
Carlo C.
February 17, 2012
Está es el remake, de una cinta argentina que ya se recomendó en esta página titulada "puzle", sólo que en esta historia el apasionamiento de la protagonista subyugada es el ajedrez y no los rompecabezas, pero el argumento es exactamente el mismo. Está buena, pues el argumento es bueno desde la original y Kevin Kline como acostumbra hace un papel decente.
February 10, 2012
A very engaging movie. The main characters played their roles with such expressiveness. A real sleeper.
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