Actors: Bernadette LaFont, Carmen Maura
Director: Jerome Enrico
Format: NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Cohen Media Group
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Run Time: 87 minutes
There could be an entire sub-genre of movies involving senior citizens and marijuana, so I initially thought I knew what to expect from another lighthearted comedy about a struggling widow forced to put her homemaking skills to illegal use. I anticipated another sweet protagonist such as the one in Saving Grace, but instead was shocked to find the title character of Paulette to be a spiteful racist. It is a bold decision which wears off in shock value as the narrative drives this protagonist down a predictable character arc, so that the stakes must be raised into a contrived climax. The overall outline of the film adheres remarkably close to the structure of a Hollywood film, though its direct approach to the discussion of racism that stands apart as something American films are rarely brave enough to tackle.
Paulette (Bernadette Lafonte) is able to get away with her blatant racism despite living in a poor neighborhood filled with minorities she sneers at, mostly because of her age, though it is her own family that takes the brunt of her hatred. Paulette is often asked to watch over her grandson, Léo (Ismaël Dramé), who she openly treats as a burden. When Léo asks why he is so disliked, Paulette plainly explains that it is because he is black. Léo’s father receives the same treatment, if not worse, though Paulette also uses his knowledge as a police officer once she decides to embark on a career as a drug dealer.
Watching the constant stream of customers and the flashiness of its profitability, Paulette approaches a local dealer to apply for the job. At first she is laughed out of the building, but after finding herself in possession of a large amount of product in one of the film’s many contrived sequences, Paulette is in business. After the predictable fish-out-of-water moments of the elderly lady learning about the drug and how to sell it, Paulette falls into a style of her own that proves even more profitable than the rest. Some of her hash ends up in a cake baked for her friends and a new product is created.
Paulette is undeniably entertaining, though I couldn’t help but feel there were some comedic opportunities lost. It also may have been nice to see a plot structure as bold as the characters are. While the film has an assortment of fantastic personalities, it often feels as though the screenplay is uncertain what to do with them. I would welcome a sequel with these same characters allowed to go in a completely original direction. The Blu-ray special features include 10 deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 5/10