Based loosely on the 1906 Stanford White case, Claude Chabrol’s latest dissection of the discreet loathsomeness of the bourgeoisie focuses on Gabrielle Snow (Sagnier), a TV meteorologist. (If you’ve already managed to catch on that her name is a signifier for innocence and eventual fodder for beaucoup irony, we applaud your deductive powers.) Gabrielle’s the type of ripe young woman who turns heads whenever she enters a room, though two particular suitors have struck her fancy: an elderly novelist (Berléand) and the bratty heir (Magimel) to a family fortune. The older, married man possesses sophistication and formidable powers of seduction, while the younger scion’s most notable characteristics are his dashing appearance in a tailored pinstripe suit and his hair-trigger temper. The fact that this is a Chabrol movie means that murder, class warfare and a subversive social critique are only a few reels away.
The French director is in his comfort zone here, coolly flinging mud at the upper crust under the guise of a Hitchcockian thriller (nice Vertigo in-joke, Claude) that runs more smoothly than a well-tuned BMW. But even if you know that Chabrol views suspense films as just a mechanism for his benign misanthropy, you can’t shake the sense that he’s going through the motions. The pacing has a tendency to downshift from deliberate to meandering at crucial moments, and though the trio of actors is on point—especially Magimel, a master at smug menace—Chabrol’s digs feel frustratingly halfhearted.
Cast and crew