Footnotes: A review of a French movie musical on shoes
STARRING Pauline Etienne, Olivier Chantreau, François Morel, Loïc Corbery,
and Julie Victor
Footnotes is a genre-bending entry into the film industry, a musical dramedy from France.
It has any number of winning elements at first gander, and it evokes Norma Rae, Kinky Boots, and a bunch of other films touching on protest, unionization, dissatisfaction with foreign workers undercutting local workers, and the like. The original French title was much clearer in its focus on the actual story and not cleverness with language: Julie and the Shoe Factory.
A brief recap of the workers and time needed to produce a high-ticket jewel of a shoe is a valuable addition to viewers' knowledge, but it passes too quickly and is not thereafter made much of during the film proper.
The earlier name for the film, Julie and the Shoe Factory, would be a better description of the goings on than Footnotes is: some of us thought, without looking at the notes, that it might be a film about research and higher ed.
The characters of the female haute couture shoe workers are an interesting lot, quick to break into stomping response to their stereotypic bosses' plans to replace them
With Chinese workers as a cost-saving measure, without regard for their incomes and lost wages.
The songs of the cast, even those of the bosses, are tuneful and of interest, but like all musicals, they seem forced and odd, breaking out in the middle of arguments or heated protests, cataclysmic social tides, and the like. Some of us don't go to Broadway musicals for the same reason: breaking out into song isn't a natural reaction to life's vicissitudes, and one wants to just hurry the plot along.
The romance in the film seems unnatural, as the protagonist, a pleasing woman named Julie, played by an attractive Pauline Etienne, falls into lusty affection for a louche trucker who never takes his cigarette out of his mouth. Given that he also turns on her and her shoe-worker colleagues when they try to stop him and other thugs from forcibly removing their stock, and actually beats up the woman he had just recently bedded, he seems a particularly unlikely jerk for our heroine to be involved with.
There is no reason this outspoken, proud woman would fall for the man she jumps on without script prep. Somebody evidently told the writers they had to have a sexual scene or two, and the protag had to fall for one of the ruffians so she could...whatever.
At every point in the plot, the audience watching hopes something dispositive will transpire on the screen that will resolve the issue of offshoring jobs. And the film, by the way, errs in making the cheap workers Chinese: the newer places to go, far cheaper than the fiercely upgrading Chinese economy, are Indonesia and Malaysia, so it's a bit out of date. About 15 years or so.
The script never resolves any of the issues brought up, and it ends on what seems an absurdly unlikely note, unprepared for by the foregoing elements in the film.
Despite some entertaining dances by a variety of non-cosmeticized women, some lilting songs on work ethics, and a believable protagonist we'd like to see more of in scripts that make more sense, the movie is a hash. It looks as though deep pockets funded a vanity production, or the edit and rewrite teams were off in St. Tropez when they should have been reworking the disjointed plot.
They forgot to answer the basic question: what happened to the factory workers, and what were the consequences of their impromptu labor-land Lysistrata?