Potiche, a satirical French comedy tells the story of an obedient housewife (Catherine Deneuve) who takes control of her misogynistic husband’s company, and eventually emancipates herself, all to his raging discontent. Set in the late 1970s, Potiche cleverly brings color and comedy to paternalistic assumptions and inequality we continually struggle with today.
The company—an umbrella factory of all things—faces ruin when the workers go on strike for demands her husband, “Robert Pujol” played by Fabrice Luchini, is absolutely unwilling to give. One of which: calls for toilets that work.
Shortly thereafter he has a heart attack, and Suzanne Pujol steps up to manage the company. Wanting to save the business her father started, which was passed down to him through her, she implements fair and equal policies. And business flourishes (imagine that), reflecting recent “news” stating that women in boardrooms increases the diversity of ideas and equality—though the numbers of women in these high-up positions are still abysmally low.
We see several other parallels to struggles feminists and women still face today, and it’s relieving to watch Deneuve take on these challenges with stride. (Towards the end, her disheveled husband and unsupportive daughter admit: “She’s a trophy wife, she’s just not stuck on a shelf.”) There are also fantastic reflections on relationships between women—how they can find strength in supporting each other, as well as how women can betray one another, oftentimes at the mercy of men.
Light-hearted and hilarious, Potiche plays at the Bijou Theatre through Thursday. Admission is free for University of Iowa students and $5 for non-students. Grab a $2 large popcorn, and feel great for supporting a local theatre with great deals and even better movies.