Dispatch: Toast to Melanie Laurent’s The Adopted

March 30, 2012 | by —Jeffrey Slonim
Stephen Lovekin/GETTY IMAGES | Homepage

Melanie Laurent is my new favorite French actress and scribe.

American film-buffs took notice of the lithe, blonde Laurent, as she tucked into strudel on camera in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds with Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa. The brute’s cheery line, as if he were reciting a nursery rhyme: “Attendez la crème….”

Even with less screen time than others in that film, Laurent won our hearts. And on Wednesday, the Cinema Society and Dior Beauty screened her film The Adopted (that’s Les Adoptés en français) at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. Laurent is a Dior Beauty face, and she wrote the movie, directed it, and plays the co-star. So kudos to Dior for supporting her art.

Unfortunately, not everyone at the event was as charming. The reporter next to me during arrivals was so full of himself, his arms folded, cradling a champagne glass, he actually took up several spaces marked for other reporters, including mine, and I didn’t even notice a tape recorder or a notebook on his person. So I incorrectly assumed that he was simply a crasher (mea culpa). 

Laurent borrowed a sip of his champers, as the reporter nervously asked her to discuss the film “without discussing the film,” whatever that means. He indicated that he didn’t want her to ruin the film for him. It was one of those head-scratching moments of deep discomfort for all within earshot—although he clearly felt he was being innovative.

I then attempted to revive Laurent’s good cheer. What is the biggest pressure on a first-time director? “Am I going to be different,” she explained, “or am I going to make a fake, bad Tarentino film?”

So did she consult Tarantino? “Yes,” and apparently he currently has a DVD of The Adopted, and she’s waiting to hear back. She noted that she and Marie Denarnaud, the stars of the film, were so stressed out, they ate a lot of candy on the way over, and “we wanted a glass of champagne.” (Hence the sip.) Laurent appeared genuinely nervous and open.

“Mary, like a virgin,” is how Denarnaud introduced herself.

What was the toughest moment on-camera for Denarnaud, who plays a bookstore attendant who falls in love, gets creamed by a motorcycle, and then falls into a coma? “There is a scene where I have to cry and cry,” she said. “And we were having a big party.  And all of a sudden, Melanie said, ‘Hey, we’ve got the good light, and we have the time, so let's do it.’”

To draw tears, “I just tried to be her,” indicated the inspired actress. She seemed nothing like her character in real life. With the big American actresses, one sometimes feels as if they’re actually paid to play themselves over and over.  

Unfortunately, having just read The Descendants on a plane last weekend and watched the film a second time, I found that yet another coma flick was just not what the doctor ordered for moi, but other reporters loved it. And Laurent does write beautifully. The love story is great; and it has the hottest sex scene since Betty Blue—starring Marie, not Melanie.  

But as the story unfolded, it became clear how masterful the novel The Descendants was for drawing the characters away from the body on the bed, returning only for tight drama and laughs. In The Adopted, characters too often simply tell the comatose patient what they are thinking. Still, there are several amusing players, including the uptight co-worker at the bookstore and the food-critic beau with dreary friends.

Laurent saved the after-party—think Dave Franco (Jim’s bro), Woody Harrelson, and Paul Haggis, who is working on a film about party reporters—by mentioning, at the front of the theater before the film, that if we didn’t like it—“Just pretend.  'Hey, that was nice….'”  

The French really do have such a lovely, polite manner—unlike some lunkheads. (See above.)

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