12 March 2019 | n-mo
Makes up in performance and comic mischief what it lacks in visuals and verisimilitude
Palais royal! is a fun little satire of royal courtly life loosely based on the tragic tale of Charles and Diana. Valérie Lemercier casts herself in the titular role of Armelle, the improbable and frumpy orthophonist wife of royal Prince Arnaud (Lambert Wilson) of some fictional generic Francophone European kingdom. Suddenly her father-in-law dies, and her brother-in-law Alban - Arnaud's elder - is rudely passed over for want of children, as required by the kingdom's fundamental laws. Arnaud becomes king regnant and Armelle queen consort, and much to her consternation their happy and privileged but marginal life gives way to the full and taxing burdens of official duties and, of course, nasty courtly intrigues. When she realizes just how close to home these intrigues hit, Armelle transforms almost overnight, subtly planting traps exposing the two-facedness of those around her (including her two-timing husband as well as the vicious Queen Mother incarnated by Catherine Deneuve), all the while endearing herself to the people.
As Guy Bellinger says, her antics are a bit vulgar in and of themselves and this tempers the satire somewhat. And her metamorphosis is just a bit rapid. Nevertheless, even with the vulgarity I think they've managed to capture - albeit somewhat unintentionally - the full spectrum of Lady Di's own flaws, antics and resentments in an analogous, less beautiful and less glamorous but every bit as much energetic leading lady. The interiors of the royal couple's living spaces did, I must opine, leave much to be desired: at some points I felt I was looking at a flyer for a new subdivision of North American McMansions. The substance was a bit thin aganst the backdrop of what I know about royal protocol and life in general, although I didn't see any one thing I would deem "inaccurate" - just perhaps a bit reductionist or incomplete.
It's entertaining, however, and worth seeing for the performances. If you don't sympathize with the characters despite their obvious flaws, though, it will be difficult to sit through to the end (which does, I feel, come a bit quick).