Venus Beauty

Director: Tonie Marshall

Beauty may be skin-deep, but Tonie Marshall cuts to the quick of shallow middle-class lives in this tart romantic comedy set in and around a Paris beauty salon. In this her fourth feature, former actress Marshall confirms her multiple talents as a writer-director with a distinctively offbeat voice.
Venus Beauty is the name of the salon, whose shop front is a splash of vulgar pink in the drab cityscape. Run by the fastidious and no-nonsense Bull Ogier, it is staffed by three women of different ages, who each live in different worlds.
The story centres on the eldest employee, Nathalie Baye, a still attractive but neurotic middle-age woman who has shied away from lasting relationships since disfiguring her former beau in a fit of jealousy. Trying to drown her lonliness in an endless succession of brief sexual liaisons, she is thrown off guard by the unsolicited romantic attentions of a handsome sculptor (Samuel LeBihan).
Though it might sound dour, the film is shot through with vigorous comic energy, which is at its most caustic in the vignettes involving the salon’s clientele.
Marshall gets the most out of her superb cast and also displays a special talent for making a cameo go a long way. Carried by good word-of-mouth in France, Venus Beauty is Marshall’s most accomplished film since her 1993 feature, Something Fishy ( Pas tres catholique), and could give the director an international hook that is long overdue.

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