From the opening sequence of Palais Royal! - a mischievous riff on Princess Diana's funeral floorshow - Valérie Lemercier's cards are on the table, and they add up to a royal flush. As writer, director and star, Lemercier skewers several strands of European royalty while telling the story of an unlikely princess who transforms herself into a 'Queen of Hearts'. Though tremendously witty in places and full of enjoyable performances, it's undeniably pitched in girls'-night-out territory - a Legally Blonde for Europhiles.
Lemercier's frumpy, funnygirl features seem perfect for the role of Armelle, the clumsy but sweet wife of cocksure aristo, Arnaud (the excellent Lambert Wilson). In fact, she's a caterpillar, soon to burst forth as a scheming, manipulative and totally selfish butterfly. When Arnaud is unexpectedly catapulted to King Elect, Armelle is thrust into the limelight where she summarily cocks up each royal engagement, much to chagrin of the conniving Queen Mother (a perfectly cast Catherine Deneuve). The faux pas pile up as every real-life royal catastrophe is recreated to comic effect. When Armelle discovers her King has been out conquering his best friend's wife her transformation from sweet royal laughing stock to devious national sweetheart begins.
"HITS SEVERAL HIGH NOTES"
As Deneuve and Lemercier's battle descends into an all-out political catfight there is a sense that some jokes are being stretched a little thin, but Palais Royal! still hits several high notes. Best of all are the satirical swipes at royalty's history of misguided misanthropy: "Poundcakes for the Poor", "One Waffle, One Vaccine" and, best of all, "Give Peace a Jump".
In French with English subtitles.