To say French rom-com Populaire is an indie film would be a stretch, but bear with me for a second and ask yourself: have you even heard of Populaire? Probably not, so ha! Now you’re going to have to read my review praising this surprise wonder of a film.
So yes, Populaire is a French film released in 2012, you can watch with handy English subtitles on Netflix. Starring popular (or populaire) French talent Romain Duris, Déborah François and the Artist’s Bérénice Bejo, the film is set in the 50s and follows the story of Rose Pamphyle (François) who leaves her small town home and traditional father for the city life as a secretary for insurance man Louis Echard (Duris). It turns out however, that Rose sucks at a secretary. She is absolutely dreadful; I’ve never given secretaries enough credit until watching this film and I think the same will be for you.
The only thing she has going for her is that she’s a fast typist. She’s so fast that Echard decides to not only let her keep her job, but move in with him so he can train her to be the fastest typist in the world, and has her competing in a series of speed typing competitions. You read that right. Speed typing competitions with typewriters. There is even a world champion record and title.
This film is practically a learning experience for anyone who didn’t know that speed typing was a big thing back then- which I believe is virtually everyone. These competitions have girls (only girls; sorry guys) competing for the speed-typing queen title in their poufy 50s dresses. They’re retro and vicious- slamming on the keys of their typewriters as if their homemade pie were burning in the next room. It is a very girl power kind of movie, and as Rose climbs the chart of typewriting royalty, you see these typewriting babes as celebrities. They’re on magazines and commercials, with screaming teens yelping in awe as they type something for them-its like Beatlemania but with typewriters.
As Rose grows more popular (or populaire– are you annoyed yet?), it’s a surprise to no one that her feelings for Echard grow as well. He’s the smoking grumpy one in contrast to Rose’s naïve shining persona and though they are very opposite, the chemistry between is spot-on. They make a great on-screen couple, and its not one of those romances that happen too quick either. It’s a romance that really develops from a flirtatious exchange to something much bigger.
What also makes Populaire so entertaining is that the very idea of the film is a bit silly. You have girls sweating over a typewriter as sport. You even have a training montage with a Rose jogging with Echard, her whistle-wearing trainer. It can get lame sometimes, but the corniness is balanced with an excellent cast and cute romance story.
Director Régis Roinsard gives the audience a film that looks very much from like the time it is set in. There are scenes that are in such great lighting; you would think you’re watching a film actually made in the 50s. And with the convincing typewriting intensity, you might yourself want to buy a typewriter. Or at least test yourself with a speed tying test online. I did, and let me assure you- speed typing is not easy, so have respect for these girls.