Jeanne Becú (Maïwenn), the illegitimate daughter of a friar and a seamstress, whom after being raised among luxuries is expelled as a teenager from her stay at a convent. Privileged for her beauty, she managed to capture the attention of Jean-Baptiste du Barry (Melvil Poupaud) until becoming the courtesan/mistress of the King of France, Louis the XV (Johnny Depp).
The opening minutes of Jeanne du Barry attempt to put the audience in tone with what Maïwenn is trying to tell us, in this high-budget production that glides around the Palais de Versailles at every minute it can. This is made to fit the tone of the vacuous melodrama, tailor-made by Maïwenn herself, once again behind the camera as well as in front to be self-exploited without any demands, so she can show herself as the strong woman who has to prostitute herself, is interested in reading, is a good mother, lover, and is even concerned about other ethnicities.
As she has shown in Polisse, Maïwenn is characterized for exposing moral decisions and therefore bring controversy, something that seems to attract Cannes not only to make her a new “subscriber” to the festival, something made evident by choosing and programming every new project of hers. It is not casual either that this is the film chosen as the aperture of a festival that continuously elevates projects into this spot that were shot in France or have any association with the country. The last that come to mind are Robin Hood, Midnight in Paris or Grace of Monaco among others, not so much for their final result, but for their themes and relevance.
A self-proclaimed detractor to the Me Too movement, Maïwenn, upon being interviewed, affirmed to “vindicate her right to heal her wounds as she sees fit”. It is not casual her choice of casting Johnny Depp in the role of Louis the XV, who returns to acting after the controversial and mediatized trial he went through for battering and found him, in some way, cancelled. Depp is the only thing that results graceful in this film. His performance is not exaggerate or pompous, and in representing a solemn king he allows himself from time to time to express a slight hint of humor. Other members of the cast such as Pierre Richard, Melvil Poupaud or Pascal Greggory are left upstaged.
On the other hand, Jeanne du Barry is that period film which personally generates a revalorization of the Marie Antoinette (a personality that has her spot in the film) by Sofia Coppola because when placing both in contrast, the latter proves, and in great deal, to have had an idea and concept of the mise-en-scene far more audacious, and with a wider margin to change the pre-established forms of what it usually ends up being a stiff, boring and mediocre drama.
(France, United Kingdom, Belgium, 2023)
Director: Maïwenn. Screenwriters: Maïwenn, Teddy Lussi-Modeste, Nicolas Livecchi. Cast: Maïwenn, Johnny Depp, Melvil Poupaud, Pierre Richard, Pascal Greggory. Producers: Pascal Caucheteux, Konstantin Elkin, Grégoire Sorlat. Running Time: 113 minutes.