Many literary critics believe Madame Bovary to be one of the greatest novels ever written. This film – based on a graphic novel that was inspired by Flaubert’s work – can’t be given the same standard of praise. It’s a rather dull and dated affair, sugar coated by the beauty of the landscape and the beauty of Gemma Arterton who plays the title role – a young English woman who, like Flaubert’s protagonist, lolls around Normandy in search of luxury.
Gemma Bovery (Arterton) and her husband Charlie (Jason Flemyng) move into a run-down house in a tiny rural village in Northern France to get away from their London past. Their names do not go unnoticed by the local baker Martin Joubert (Fabrice Luchini), formerly a publisher from Paris, and he begins to spy on Gemma partly to witness how closely her life mirrors that of her literary counterpart, and partly because her obvious charms have awakened him from “ten years of sexual tranquility.” In the ensuing string of frothy and unimaginative episodes Gemma meets local aristocrat Hevre de Bressigny (Niels Schneider) and seems to be doomed to the fate of the tragic Madame Bovary, a destiny that Joubert is determined to avoid.
Posy Simmond’s graphic novel is a whimsical reinvention of Flaubert’s novel, and co-writer and director Anne Fontaine makes the screen adaptation a shallow venture – the slapstick sexual antics borrowing from the Benny Hill tradition of titillation. Whilst cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne (The Blue Room, Coco Before Chanel) makes the film look lush, Luchini’s deadpan talents and Arterton’s drop dead gorgeous looks cant save this from being a strangely frivolous and tediously trivial experience.