The Bridesmaid

Rated NR 2006

Given his doggedly consistent fascination with psychopathic crime intersecting with bourgeois lives, it's a surprise to find that The Bridesmaid is only Claude Chabrol's second adaptation of a Ruth Rendell novel (after La Ceremonie). It is, in any case, a psychodrama of typically brisk efficiency and relaxed gallows humor. The semi-functioning family at the center is sketched in -- responsible son (with incestuous lurkings) Benoit Magimel, high-spirited single mom (Aurore Clement), bickering sisters -- before we meet the titular catalyst at a family wedding: Senta (Laura Smet), a sensuous but off-putting seductress with a mysterious past. Magimel is all pro, deciphering life with his eyes, as the chump who gets vacuumed in by this odd girl's impulsive devotions and Nietzschean delusions, but Smet, all eyelashes and butterscotch skin, is the film's prize; she doesn't act out the character's slowly revealed pathologies so much as keep them barely contained behind her mesmerizing stare, like mad dogs in a cage. Chabrol sets us up, of course, which is half the fun, and the experience is a delight for lack of pomposity (his visual storytelling remains no-nonsense) as well as genre expertise.

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