Movie Review: Based On a True Story (D’après une histoire vraie)

I’m quite torn when it comes to filmmaker Roman Polanski (VENUS IN FUR; THE PIANIST; CHINATOWN; ROSEMARY’S BABY). On the one hand, he has made some amazing films in his time and I do feel sorry for him for having lost his pregnant wife (Sharon Tate) at the hands of Charles Manson but he’s an unrepentant pedophile plain and simple. It’s a problem but I decided to check out his latest film BASED ON A TRUE STORY anyway. For what it’s worth, it made me change my opinion of him.

Delphine Dayrieux (Emmanuelle Seigner aka Mrs. Polanski, VENUS IN FUR) has just published her latest novel and it’s a best seller, resonating with women everywhere. Her two adult children, though, are less than pleased that their mother has aired their family laundry and their distance from her doesn’t allow her to savour her success. In the midst of a grueling book tour, yet another fan asks Delphine to sign her copy of the book and although the author is exhausted, she agrees because this fan, who goes by the name of Elle (Eva Green, MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN; CASINO ROYALE), seems different from all the others. The two women cross paths again that night at a cocktail party and Delphine finds that Elle, who is a ghost writer by profession, seems to understand her like no one else. It’s not too long before Elle moves into Delphine’s home and, bit by bit, begins to take over Delphine’s life, all under the guise of encouraging Delphine to write that next big novel.

If you think this sounds like a cross between SINGLE WHITE FEMALE and MISERY, you wouldn’t be wrong. Unfortunately, this film lacks any tension and is downright laughable. I’m serious about the laughing part. Delphine puts herself in such ridiculous situations that you will find yourself laughing at the incredulousness of it all. Of course, her behaviour makes complete sense at the end but by the time that comes around, you will have long packed up any emotional connection you may have had to the film and to the characters. It’s a shame because Eva Green is such a wonderful actress. Here, she chews up every scene but it’s completely wasted on a horrible screenplay (adapted by Polanski and Olivier Assayas (PERSONAL SHOPPER; CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA) from the novel by Delphine de Vigan), lazy direction and Seigner’s risible performance. The scene where Delphine falls down a staircase is so ineptly done, you have to wonder if it’s time for Polanski to call it a day and retire.

BASED ON A TRUE STORY is awful. Give it a miss, or watch ROSEMARY’S BABY instead so you can see what a great director Polanski used to be.

Listen to the review recorded in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, June 21th at 8:30 am HK time!

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