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article imageReview: ‘Gemma Bovery’ is an unremarkable affair Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 8, 2014 in Entertainment
‘Gemma Bovery’ is a reworking of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” in which a woman’s behaviour imitates the title character’s as a curious neighbour scrutinizes her activities.
Classic literary works can have a long-lasting influence on booklovers. They read them repeatedly and often find correlations in real life. There are instances in which life imitates art, but these occurrences are not generally so precise. In Gemma Bovery, the characters not only have similar names but also begin to mimic their namesake’s behaviour.
Martin (Fabrice Luchini) is the village baker, but the ex-Parisian seeks culture and excitement everywhere. When he discovers the name of the English couple moving in across the way is Gemma and Charles Bovery (Gemma Arterton and Jason Flemyng), Martin can’t help but immediately draw the connection to Gustave Flaubert’s 1856 novel, Madame Bovary. He becomes obsessed with their lives, particularly when Gemma begins imitating the behaviour of the classic character. She often feels misplaced and bored in the idyllic French village, but the attentions of a young law student make both Gemma’s and Martin’s lives more interesting.
Martin practically stumbles over himself every time he is in Gemma’s presence. He is enamoured with her both as his beautiful neighbour and the personification of Emma Bovary. Having memorized Flaubert’s text, Martin instead becomes engrossed in Gemma’s journal that documents her emotional state and affairs since moving to the quiet hamlet. While she doesn’t suffer the same societal disadvantages as Emma, Gemma does manoeuvre the tedium in a similar manner by seeking the company of men other than her husband. As a result, Martin worries she will also share the woman’s tragic fate.
Gemma and Martin are the key characters with their spouses playing minor roles in their escapades. They are constantly running into each other in the picturesque countryside, though it’s never quite clear if it’s a coincidence or intentional on Martin’s part as each encounter is filled with sexual tension on his part. However Gemma’s carelessness in her affairs makes it almost unnecessary for Martin to read her diary to know what she is doing, supposedly in secret. Even though her husband is comparatively absent in the narrative, Flemyng still manages to make an impression when given the opportunity to react to her activities.
Writer/director Anne Fontaine is experienced in bringing complex romantic relationships to the screen, having previously helmed Adore. However the intrigue of her earlier stories far exceed that of this one. Martin’s snooping and Gemma’s recklessness are simply not enough to keep the audience engaged for the length of the film, though it begins as an intriguing adaptation of the original tale.
Director: Anne Fontaine
Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Gemma Arterton and Jason Flemyng
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