fri 19/07/2024

Call My Agent!, Netflix review - French movie stars turn out for witty and waspish TV show | reviews, news & interviews

Call My Agent!, Netflix review - French movie stars turn out for witty and waspish TV show

Call My Agent!, Netflix review - French movie stars turn out for witty and waspish TV show

Gallant Gallic screen icons throw themselves in as bait

Gabriel (Grégory Montel) tries to please his client Monica Bellucci

Read theartsdesk review of Call My Agent!, Series 4

Apparently it took some time before the cream of the French acting profession could be persuaded to take part in a TV drama that shed a sardonic light on the relationship between actors and their agents – or maybe it was their agents who harboured reservations – but once the ball started rolling there was no stopping them. Some of the guest stars in Call My Agent won’t be too familiar to non-French viewers, but in the first two series we saw Nathalie Baye and her daughter Laura Smet, Audrey Fleurot (of Spiral fame), Isabelle Adjani and Juliette Binoche. The new third series makes plenty of room for Jean Dujardin, Monica Bellucci, Isabelle Huppert and Béatrice Dalle.

In France they call this show Dix Pour Cent, referring to the commission an actor pays to their agent, but it’s not all about money. The lives of the group of agents at the Paris-based ASK (Agence Samuel Kerr) provide plenty of fodder for drama, ambition, lust, jealousy and panic, and the death of the eponymous Samuel Kerr early in the first series (allegedly during an orgy in Rio de Janeiro) triggered a succession struggle in which wily veteran Mathias Barneville (Thibault de Montalambert) emerged on top, at least temporarily (pictured below from right, Isabelle Adjani, de Montalambert and Camille Cottin).

Around him, the ravenously ambitious Andréa Martel (Camille Cottin) will do almost anything to recruit top acting talent, while Gabriel Sarda (Grégory Montel) prefers a more soothing, empathetic approach to avoid bruising the fragile actorly ego. Much mileage was squeezed from the arrival at the agency of naive ingénue Camille Valentini (Fanny Sidney). She’s Mathias’s daughter from a previous marriage, a fact which took enormous energy and ingenuity and some farcical Brian Rix-type moments to keep concealed... until, inevitably, it wasn’t.

The smart part is the way the “real” actors don’t just swish about looking famous, but are integral to the drama and can be relied upon to throw insurmountable problems at their frazzled agents (chapeau, if you will, to creators Fanny Herrero and Dominique Besnehard). The stars' problems frequently stem from vanity, insecurity and growing older. The Baye/ Smet storyline pivoted on the idea of mother and daughter being cast in the same movie, but then being horrified to learn that shooting would leave them incarcerated on a small boat together for three months. Neither wanted to admit that they couldn't stand being in such close proximity together for so long.

Cécile de France rather heroically played the part of herself hoping to be cast in a new Tarantino movie, only to be vetoed because she was too old (40). She only found out by accident, since her agent Gabriel was too frightened to tell her. Christophe Lambert permitted himself a brief walk-on as an ageing lecher, while Audrey Fleurot depicted the acute plight of an actress being expected to play pole-dancing scenes on camera shortly after having a baby. Gérard Lanvin does a nice turn as an ageing veteran feeling threatened by an exuberant young newcomer. 

After the second series ended with a gala episode set at the Cannes Film Festival, in which Juliette Binoche and her agent Andréa mounted a heroic fightback against a Weinstein-esque executive with sleazy designs on Binoche and the power to quash the movie she was proposing to produce, the new series three got off to a slightly sluggish start. The characters have been juggled around a bit, and the agency’s new owner, the aggressive self-made tycoon Hicham Janowski (Assaad Bouab), threatens to tilt the show off its axis with his frantic control-freakery in both the personal and professional spheres.

Still, there’s much drollness in Jean Dujardin’s portrayal of an actor so method-obsessed that he can’t shake off his role of an army deserter living rough in a forest and ends up in a tent in his garden, eating wild rabbits (pictured above). Monica Bellucci, meanwhile, pastiches the pampered life of a sexpot superstar by flinging herself at a flabbergasted Gabriel, who is forced to flee for his life. Give it a go, why doncha.

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