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Monday
Sep252017

NYFF: Isabelle Huppert as "Mrs. Hyde"

by Jason Adams

Isabelle Huppert walks out and stands in front of her classroom in Serge Bozon's Mrs. Hyde and she seems to disappear into the wall - the chalk on the chalkboard has more color than she does. She's paste in sensible shoes. We first meet her being harangued publicly by her students, and in a slow painful succession of scenes she's humiliated by everyone she comes into contact with. This is no Huppert Dragon Lady, then.

And then, voila, she's struck by lightning. And given what we drag into the movie theater with us, given this film's title, we think to ourselves, "Cue the dragon!"

So the most interesting thing about Mrs. Hyde is simultaneously its most frustrating thing - it's as if Bozon took it as a challenge to deny us what we came to this movie for... Huppert's Hyde side, once unleashed, is literally a ghost - a sleepwalking fire phantom that shows even less agency than her day-time side does. (Well besides turning the occasional passerby to ash, of course.) We're almost entirely denied a dramatic swing from Mousy Nerd to Id Monster (Huppert does tear her blouse open at one point, but I think that's in her contract) and so the drama instead somehow becomes, "What does it take to be a good teacher?" It's a precarious seriousness piled up via silly string - the movie seems to lumber awkwardly, Frankenstein-ian like, at times, unsure of its next steps.

But we do find ourselves leaning forward, reading meaning into the slightest details of this woman's transformation. For a movie this purposefully goofy and broad it still pays infinitesimal attention to the smallest of turns in Huppert's performance - her Hyde seems to change on a molecular level, as if every atom shifted just five degrees, and so the reworking of her life and belief system comes deep down, somewhere we can't see. She seems to just... find herself, as if she's turned her head around a corner and gotten a better view. That's a long way away from Fredric March's fur-browed devilry of Hydes Past.

The people around Huppert seem to sense the change as if by smell, and they shift too -- some good comes out of it (her students start responding to her) and some bad comes out of it (see the aforementioned turning people into ash thing). But just this slight atomic shift turns her entire world on its axis. It's a fun-house mirror version of Huppert's later-in-life self-actualization in Mia Hansen-Løve's Things to Come - all you need to find purpose is a little push, a new perspective, and a six-foot-tall electromagnetic Faraday Cage. Not necessarily in that order.

Grade: B

Mrs. Hyde is screening at the New York Film Festival on September 29th and October 1st.

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Reader Comments (8)

I want Huppert, even if she acts in nano movements.

September 25, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Isabelle Huppert as Mrs. Hyde? SHUT THE FUCK UP, TAKE MY MONEY, AND FUCK ME IN THE ASS!!!!!!!

September 25, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

I love to see Huppert's nano-, infinitesimal, molecular transformation only her particular and specific talents and skills set can bring to the screen. So consider me a fan of this movie (or any movie with her on it). She is an auteur in my eyes, the equal of truly talented filmmakers.

I'm wondering if Madame Hyde will be re-appraised years from now and found to be subversive, that and if it ages well. Serge Bozon's idiosyncratic style befuddles as much as it enlightens. I'm glad Huppert still works with directors/critics.

September 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

We're almost entirely denied a dramatic swing from Mousy Nerd to Id Monster (Huppert does tear her blouse open at one point, but I think that's in her contract)
Jason I love you.

September 25, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Jason, a nice review - but aren't Jekyll and Hyde the wrong way round? In the original, Jekyll is the quiet one, Hyde is the monstrous one.

September 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Could Isabelle get another Oscar nomination this year? She has two worthy films in the running. Happy End and Ms Hyde. And we all know she is worthy of an Oscar.

September 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

Owl -- I for sure think there's a chance Bozon's storytelling might be ahead of its time and seem less... strange... in the future. I def get what you're getting at calling it "subversive" and it's entirely possible.

Edward -- good catch! Fixed! Thanks!

September 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJason

All I want for Christmas is the best nominees of the last years back in the race, Huppert and Rampling

September 26, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

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