A polarizing neo-noir with a sharp sense of style and a paper thin storyline.
The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun
If Jean-Luc Goddard directed a feature-length episode of The Twilight Zone, it would probably resemble The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun. That description will likely leave you either intrigued or completely turned off, and this film itself is just as polarizing.
Director Joann Sfar’s neo-noir thriller finds Dany (Freya Mavor), a young secretary, taking her boss Michel’s fancy American sports car out on a joyride. Her drive leads her to a secluded seaside town where everyone she comes across seems to know her, despite the fact that she has no recollection of having met any of them. As Dany begins to consider the existence of a possible impostor, she discovers a dead body in the trunk of the car, and things only get more chaotic from there.
From the start, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun is extremely stylish. Perhaps so stylish that it lacks substance in areas where it’s absolutely vital. The frequent use of split screens adds significant entertainment value to some of the more mundane sequences, but after a while the sharp editing loses its luster, and the lack of meat on the screenplay’s bones becomes more noticeable. It’s not that the plot isn’t interesting—on paper, it certainly is—but there’s so much downtime that the film feels quite lackadaisical. There are numerous moments when what is happening in the story is a bit difficult to understand, and in those times, the sharp stylistic nature doesn’t make the muddled storytelling any easier to follow.
Most of the sexual elements feel forced and awkward, which is unusual considering that the film is decidedly French in every other way. Mavor is an objectively beautiful young woman, and Dany has a certain aura about her that is alluring. But there’s a severe lack of romantic chemistry between her and the potential love interests. Aside from that, performances are generally solid, if not a bit bizarre, with Mavor bringing a mischievous charm to every scene. Nymphomaniac’s Stacy Martin appears in a brief, but effective role as Michel’s wife, Anita, and the interactions between her and Dany are strangely evocative. It’s interesting to watch the relationship between two women who are connected through a man with whom they have drastically different relations. Unfortunately that aspect, along with many other subplots in the film, remain relatively unexplored in the end. It’s as if Sfar is trying to keep things ambiguous on every single level, which eventually grows tiresome. Some mystery is great, but too much mystery is simply frustrating.
The remote nature of the locations gives the film a peculiar aesthetic that makes the inevitable plot revelations all the more impactful. Warm, hazy cinematography from Manuel Dacosse sets the stage for a lighthearted love story, and the subversion that comes shortly after is welcomed.
The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun is a thoroughly disappointing film because there are moments when its weird, suspenseful charm really begins to shine. But those moments never stick around long enough to have a lasting effect. On a technical scale, there is a lot to appreciate about the film, but its screenplay is too much of a jumbled mess to look past. Under some of the excess cinematic fat, there’s a quality film to be found. But where it stands, there’s not enough bite behind the film’s admittedly compelling bark.